24 August 2017 (released)
08 September 2017
Although its radical roots have generally lost out to braggadocio and bedroom anthems, r&b has a rich tradition of social and political conscience. The struggle for freedom and equality goes right back to its inception and some of its most universally loved songs deal with the desire for peace and the championing of human rights for all.
Resist is the second album this year from the enigmatic rhythm and blues project, Agency. This follows up their March release Identity which carved out their place as a new political voice in the genre. Through smooth, rich vocals upfront lyrics and crisp production, they delved into what one's sense of self means in 2017; confronting norms and stereotypes, finding love in weird places and taking ownership of your life. On Resist, Agency charges forward with defiant anthems that take on the issues of race, disparity, and violence that are still problems that America is dealing with on a daily basis. The album is biting in content but silky in its delivery. Political r&b for a new age.
The tone of the album is set by opening with MLK's historic mountaintop speech. The snappy 'What's Going On (Right Now)' is a spiritual descendant of Marvin Gaye's 'What's Goin' On'. Both muse on the incomprehensible state of affairs and dream of better days. 'Till & Marrow's ringing sentiment “How could they do that?” recalls the killings of young black men Emmet Till and Henry Marrow by white mobs without repercussion. The incidences draw eerie comparisons to the litany of murders in recent years by police officers that go unpunished. The song grimly highlights the tragedy of failing to learn the lessons of history.
A pair of poignant covers at the album's halfway point strip away the slick production leaving only acoustic guitar and a voice. Their take on Sinead O'Connor's 'Black Boys On Mopeds' switches out the references to Margret Thatcher and England for “Our President”, choosing to leave the megalomaniac American president unnamed. Although no rendition will ever outshine O'Connor's gripping performance, this is a potent version that recontextualizes the song 27 years later. For the second cover, Agency completely reimagines Jimi Hendrix's incendiary 'Machine Gun' without all the electric guitar acrobatics, instead, leaving the voice to the dramatic swoops. A haunting acoustic guitar brings a wistful sorrow to the words.
Resist works to further solidify Agency's place as modern truth tellers. Social commentators in a genre that too often gets lost within its own vanities. Resist is righteous, uncompromising and in the end, full of hope. And some damn catchy jams.