Titus Andronicus is one of my favorite bands in the world right now. 2010’s The Monitor was a revelation of sloppy punk facades covering aspirations of Springsteen. It instantly became one of my all-time classic records, and I spin it at least a few times a month over two years later. So, the news that a new Titus album was on it’s way got me pretty excited back in August. I was a little nervous, however, that they wouldn’t be able to live up to my now lofty expectations. Don’t get me wrong, their first album The Airing Of Grievances is good, but it’s nothing compared to The Monitor.
When I refer to the band Titus Andronicus, what I really mean is lead singer Patrick Stickles and whatever group of musicians he has decided to surround himself with for the moment. One of my biggest reservations about Local Business is that Amy Klein (live shows) and Andrew Cedermark (left before The Monitor was finished) would have no involvement in the new album. Cedermark’s guitar work is unbelievable, and Klein provided extra guitar and violin when needed. Luckily, Liam Betson took on an expanded role, and provides neither an upgrade nor a downgrade-it’s almost as if no change had occured at all.
This album really is Stickles own beast, though. Many of the songs deal with his own mental and physical health issues. He sings about depression and his eating disorder with a vulnerability that most young men wouldn’t dare put on record. His story is a compelling one, and I think that people suffering from similar ordeals might take some solace in knowing that someone like them is alerting people to their plight.
One thing that Titus Andronicus has always been is principled. They lay out the biggest guideline that they live by in the opening verse of Local Business:
Okay, I think by now we’ve established
Everything is inherently worthless
And there’s nothing in the Universe.
With any kind of objective purpose
And you can scream for a hundred years.
Split the sky with a thousand curses
To tell the evil that man do.
And you wouldn’t even scratch the surface.
Stickles has commented on more than one occasion that because the world is pointless, it’s up to us as people to decide what kind of life we want to live-create your own morals based on how you think existence should be. I agree completely. We shouldn’t be dictated how to live by a book or an institution.
When I first heard Local Business last week, I immediately texted my brother in Titus-love Jeremy. My text read: “New Titus sounds like Lifted mixed with Weezer’s Blue Album.” For some people that might not sound like a great combo, but for someone like me, I can’t think of anything better. I was surprised that there was such a pop feel to the record. Some of the songs are like big arena rock-types that could appear on a compilation along side stuff like Bon Jovi or Journey. “I Am The Electric Man” doesn’t even sound like a Titus song, but it works.
On the Lifted comparison I have about a hundred examples. The best might be my favorite song on Local Business, “In A Small Body.” Maybe it’s because Stickles voice sounds a little like Conor Oberst after a few drinks. The naked songwriting helps too. I didn’t think an improvement from The Monitor was possible, but this song proved me wrong.
You’re gonna get your chance to be hung
You’ll make a great gift to gracious girls
Trying to swallow while you’re still young
That your dicks too short to fuck the world
Local Business is a great contrast to the bands previous work. Even though the songs are very serious, there is a sense of fun that was missing before. Just in his late 20’s, Stickles is still perfecting his craft as a writer. As a performer, he and the whole band are at the top of their game. I’ve seen them live a couple of times and I was blown away. The transition from Cedermark to Betson proves an easy one to handle, and drummer Eric Harms remains to drive the songs home.
The album is currently streaming over at NPR, and it is released officially next Tuesday. Titus Andronicus will be touring starting the 22nd of October, so watch out for their appearance in your town. If you’re smart you’ll bring a change of clothes, because I sweat through mine both times I saw them. You can also preorder the album on limited edition red vinyl (like I did).