One Random Single a Day #70: “Blood” (2012) by Algiers

Today’s random single comes from what is probably the newest band or artist I’ve covered on this challenge so far. Awesomely enough, they’ve also probably been the most interesting. The members of the band started playing music together during their upbringings in Atlanta, Georgia, but once lead singer Franklin James Fisher moved to Europe for college in 2007, the interest to officially form a band came into fruition. They wrote songs through file-sharing, as all three members of the group were spread across three countries, and used a shared Tumblr account to keep up a stream of influences that would inform their work. Their first single, “Blood”, was officially released in early 2012, followed by their debut full-length album in 2015. I can’t find much information as to what they’ve been doing in the meantime, but by all accounts they are still together and I can only assume that they’re still performing and working on some more tracks with which to rock the world.

Much of Algiers’ music is characterized by a rich conglomeration of varying elements in both their sonic influences (post-punk, hard rock, Southern Gospel, soul, electronic music) and themes presented in their lyrics, largely leaning toward political and social criticism of issues such as racism and xenophobia. While their music is historically realized by the works of artists and political activists that the band members in which all shared interest and admiration (James Baldwin and Nina Simone, to name a couple), it’s hard to not bring to mind the imagery of the marches and protests springing up across the country in recent years. It’s true that they are a rock band per se, but their recordings are so embellished with a legitimate sense of urgency and spirituality that many modern rock groups of the day frequently lack, and do so across numerous genre tropes, that it’s frankly impossible to pigeon-hole them into one clean, simple grouping.

If you’re reading this, I would recommend that you check out this live performance that they’ve done for a Seattle radio station. They start off with a performance of the single in question today, “Blood”, which is introduced by a recording of Nina Simone describing the larger context behind the song “Strange Fruit”, which protested the systematic lynching of Black people in America. As the drums and bass pound on through, we are given even more excerpts from Dr. Cornel West and James Baldwin, all lucidly professing the plight of the Black community in the white man’s world. Even though these recordings are decades old, they still continue to ring incredibly true, enough so to grant “Blood” the levity it needs to really expel its emotional core musically. And I think it does so successfully – throughout its five-and-a-half minute runtime, the sonic qualities of the track ebb and swell upon layers and layers of aggressive sound that eventually grow and feel like a loud overlapping of voices crying out for help.

The single release of this track does not begin with the spoken word introduction, so I’m glad that I found it as to greatly emphasize the message of the lyrics. West’s lines ring especially prominent: “American mainstream is obsessed with the black creative genius… but at the same time, puts a low priority on the black social misery which is the very context out of which this creativity flows”. Among many, this seems to be the core message of which this song arises from, with lyrics such as “Flash across your screen / They got you in their hand / Fifteen minutes of freedom / Still three-fifths a man”. Lines like these, coupled with the consistent repetition of the phrase “All my love’s in vain” brings about this sense of hopelessness in the fight for true liberation, or at the very least a sense false security and disgrace to the generations of fighting for emancipation, only to be enslaved in other sectors of the country’s prosperity.

I think if there’s anything about this track that turns me off, it’s that it seems at certain points the speaker is trying to blame the subject – presumably a media icon or figure – for their complacency in the situation, as if it’s solely their fault for this folly and not a demonstration of larger powers at play. Yet I think it escapes this trap with the “It’s gone too far to change” line, which emphasizes how this has been normalized for so long, the problem is hardly obvious. With the song’s escalating tone and stomping rhythms, there’s this pervading sense of urgency and call to action to do one’s part in escaping the clutches of white supremacy that the capitalist structure of the country in which the country is so deeply threaded. Needless to say, Algiers have really caught my attention by virtue of this track alone. This music is the perfect melding of culturally realized methods of production and dramatic relevancy in lyrical content, the kind that is sorely needed right now. I really can’t wait to give a listen to the rest of their album.

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