“you fight for centuries for change and they give you more of the same…”
politics. power. exploitation. now, i’m always down for a good message in a song – and Algiers is delivering in the tunes i’ve Youtube-searched in the past hour since finding the gem, “Irony. Utility. Pretext.”, above. they are described as an electro-punk-rock-gospel type crew and being the queen of multi-hyphenated sounds, i am so here for it.
first off all, the lead vox can holla. i can’t always understand every word, but i hear what he’s saying! and, the lyrics are much than the 1986-ish beat portends, though it may have you trying to chair pop-n-lock while searching for the lyrics. seriously. and it’s just off enough to make u wonder what their live set looks like.
since i can show you better than i can tell you, press play above to get the full picture.
and, for those non-TLDR folks, here’s how the band talks about the visuals, which were shot at the Buzludzha Monument in Bulgaria:
An obsession with notions of historical struggle, not only over political power but also meaning and memory, led us to an interest in the former Yugoslavia. There you can find towering monuments of abstract art erected by Tito in an attempt to constitute a new identity rooted in political collectivity rather than ethnic particularity. In neighboring Bulgaria sprout an entirely different set of physical remainders of a deeply contested history. They stand imposing and forlorn dotted across the countryside, looming like decaying alien spacecraft over factory towns and desolate mountain peaks.
It was really Nikola Mihov’s book, ‘Forget Your Past’, that ultimately inspired us to explore further the notion of contested spaces in an era of neocolonialism and capitalist realism. In one sense, the “Irony. Utility. Pretext.” video problematizes the rise of “ruin exploitation”, a strand in photography that occupies a suspiciously colonial position wherein “white creatives” invade decaying towns such as Detroit or Gary to capture images for their own atomistic meditations. Such photography in former communist countries adopts an additional triumphalist air, ringing in the end of history and the supremacy of neoliberal capitalism.
The images provide interesting parallels with the lyrics, confronting both the age-old fetishization of the musical artifact and the neocolonial prism of development economics. In the former, ghetto art forms from Lagos to Detroit are wrenched from their social and political contexts and whitewashed for Western hyper-consumption. In the latter, a new set of educated cosmopolitans wielding the language of human rights replace our former colonial masters.
Themes of death and decay are unavoidable in this context, mimicking capital, stalking us in our sleep in search of ever increasing profits. In the end, it is the words of revolutionaries such as Robespierre, Angela Davis and Fred Hampton that flash across the screen to remind us of the precarious nature of the search for freedom and truth in these oppressive times.
side note: i swear the instrumentals are from some 1986-ish clip i have yet to find. it could also fit nicely as a secondary to Eddie Murphy’s “Beverly Hills Cop.” if i find the song it reminds me of, i’ll be sure to come back and post.