Titus Andronicus – Local Business

Rating: ★★★½☆

You’ve really got to root for Titus Andronicus?  They’ve taken on their own approach to working within the indie rock community, and regardless of pitfalls of other acts, they always seem to come out on their own terms.  Local Business is their third LP, and while it’s story line may not be as grandiose as The Monitor, it impresses greatly, musically and lyrically.

For me, I almost always notice the music first, nowadays.  Perhaps that’s why the guitar line that opens “Ecce Homo” stuck out to me the most on my first listen; it’s almost got a Replacements feel to it, cutting edge, yet relaxed.  Then, of course, Patrick enters the picture delivering his stance as a man looking on from the outside, angry about the way things have played out, for himself and others.  Personally, by the fist song, I’m already fascinated by the clarity of the vocals, but what’s stuck out a great deal is the musical shift.  This album is all about a more classic rock n’ roll sound.  The guitars are turned up, as usual, but they take on less of a post-rock feel, especially if you look at the second track on Local Business, “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter.”

That being said, I also think there’s a harder edge punk rock ethos laying beneath the songwriting.  Sure, that’s always been present, but in listening to a track like “Titus Andronicus vs The Absurd Universe” you can tell by the ferocity in the vocal delivery and the ringing guitar that this is all about creating music that’s in your face; it’s brash and lyrical, yet there’s still melody lurking. Even “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus” has a subdued element of punk rock, although the guitar line that cuts through the number provides a more sentimental classic rock element.  Oh, and you can sing along too, rather easily…a staple of punk’ simplicity, and Patrick Stickles’s songwriting.

For me, the heart and soul of Titus Andronicus still lives in their mini-opus rock numbers.  “I Tried to Quit Smoking” is something I can relate to on a personal level, but the slow start of Patrick singing over piano and minimal drumming draws listeners in from the start, and that sentiment stays with you, that is until the band begins to sort of dial it in near the latter half with some noodling on various instruments.  It also provides a good counterpoint to “My Eating Disorder,” which appears earlier on Local Business.  This one’s almost as long, but it’s more of a bar-room brawler, giving you a bit of a shuffle whilst moving in and out of the track itself.  One listen and you’ll be anticipating the night when you get to scream “my eating disorder is inside me” at the top of your lungs.

Now, if you’re looking for the Monitor Pt. 2, you’re not going to find it here.  Honestly, that’s a good thing, considering the world raved about that album.  It shows me, as well as other fans, that the group’s still sticking to their guns, still operating on their own terms.  They don’t need to recreate themselves, and they don’t need to sound like Titus Andronicus.  They can forage new territory on their own, yet still come out with incredible songs that beg to be sung in the live setting or at the top of your lungs while you’re screaming down the highway.  Local Business is a good record. Hands down.

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Rating: ★★★★☆

“Good morning class and welcome to your American Civil War lesson. Today we will be discussing the fledgling US Navy and the Ironclad battle ship, The Monitor. Hey, WHO THREW THAT!? Titus! I know it’s you, damn trouble making teens with your loud rock and or roll music.”

After the roaring and ironically tame named debut, the Airing of Grievances, the New Jersey-based indie punk rockers are back with their sophomore album, The Monitor. With the new release, the band is taking a stab at the Civil War era, with the release serving as a period piece of sorts.  The title is in reference to the USS Monitor, which was the first commissioned warship by the US Navy during the Civil War.

That in no way means the group has changed their sound, so that means there’s plenty of low-fi, shoe gaze still involved, with a healthy dose of the ever-present fervent lyrics from front-man Patrick Stickles.  The moniker by which the young quintet refers to themselves is obtained from an obscure Shakespearean tragedy, known for it’s over the top drama and violence. Over the top, dramatic, and violent is a good way to describe the group and similarly their amazing live shows, which is providing much buzz for the group across the Country and abroad. In addition to that reputation, it’s obvious that these young men are cultured and know their history and that’s refreshing in itself.

Known for their raucous live shows in small, intimate venues, Titus Andronicus is set to have a very busy Spring Break.  The band has positioned itself to be one of the busiest bands around during SXSW which will give us a good great chance to hear the new album where it is best heard, in its face-melting, ear shattering, sweat-inducing live setting.  The new release also features appearances by members of Wye OakVivian Girls, and The Hold Steady amongst many others, which according to the record label XL recordings, all play a specific role as Civil War-era personalities.

The opener, ‘A More Perfect Union’, begins with the significant Abraham Lincoln quote, ominously stating “if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author, and finisher.” Quickly, the group picked up where they left off in their debut, pounding into a seven minute jam with impressive melodies complimenting Stickle’s ‘agitated Oberst-esque’ lyrical stylings with fantastic results. Its good foot stomping Americana, proudly heralding “Rally around the flag!”, and proclaiming “I will not retreat a single inch, and I will be heard.” Not truer statement can be said about Titus Andronicus.

Throughout the record are more sound-bytes from the Civil War era, which hold much intrigue alone, but are especially portentous when heard alternate Spickle’s vocals and Eric Hold’s percussive fervor. The record is more or less about the conflict and subsequent unresolved misfortune followed by the ideals from the relationships forged nearly 150 years ago continuing today. However these principles have shaped our modern society, “you’ll always be a loser” quips the self-deprecating theme ‘No Future Part 3: Escape From No Future’, “and that’s ok.”

The two-part single, ‘Four Score and Seven’, which is set to be released on a 2-sided LP, is a great meditation on the subject of war and its absurdity. This track marks a turning point in the album, with the entrance of a brass section and beautiful interlude into the second half of the track which less introspective and more irate at the horrors of conflict more often seen.

‘To Old Friends and New’ displays a new side of the band with a touching duet with the Vivian Girl’s Cassie Ramone, which slowly builds to a crescendo proudly proclaiming “It’s alright now”. This touching moment is unexpectedly followed by ‘…And Ever’ which seems out of place at its ninth spot due to the drastic segue from the former’s tenderness and overall tone. Finally, the band finishes off the record with a powerful message of acceptance, liberation, and ultimately death. Per the band, the release is their way of celebrating the 148-year anniversary of the ship and much like the USS Monitor, this lengthy album fights a first-class battle and proves its worth in a great lyrical clash; only to sink quietly into rough waters following the afore-mentioned closing track, ‘The Battle of Hampton Roads’. And as we have all learned today, this battle served as the height of the Monitor’s service career and fittingly is a high water mark for the band. Any questions? Very well, class dismissed.

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Download: Titus Andronicus – Four Score and Seven (Part One) [MP3]

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Download: Titus Andronicus – Four Score and Seven (Part Two) [MP3]