Titus Andronicus releases new album ‘Local Business’
By Kyle Mc Goey
Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Friday Night Rock veteran Titus Andronicus recently released their third album “Local Business,” an album that takes on new levels of self-loathing not seen since their 2010 release “The Monitor.”
While you’re not likely to hear many of Titus Andronicus’ songs on Top-40 radio stations, the band is a rising star in the indie-rock world. Their last album, “The Monitor,” was an ambitious concept album, wrapping a narrative of the Civil War and conflicted feelings about the band’s home state of New Jersey in a layer of catchy, propulsive punk rock.
From spoken-word quotes of William Lloyd Garrison to mantras like, “The enemy is everywhere,” the earnest and ambitious nature of “The Monitor” gave frontman Patrick Stickles a fresh medium through which to address the frustration and uncertainty familiar to so many young Americans today.
“The Monitor” got by on its grandiosity, blowing everyday conflicts up into life-or-death struggles, but “Local Business” takes a different path.
“I think by now we’ve established that everything is inherently worthless / And there’s nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose,” Stickles sings on the opening track “Ecce Homo.”
The hopeful glow of the 2008 election season is gone, and dreams of change have been replaced by fears of unchangeable stagnation. But nihilism makes for a pretty good release, and Titus Andronicus seems to have decided that even if the band can’t change the world, the members should still rock out anyway.
From the gleeful romp of “Food Fight!” to the manic three-word squawk of “Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO),” the band seems intent on blasting its way straight to Armageddon.
“Food Fight” and “Titus Andronicus” may have a grand total of five words between them, but on the rest of the album Stickles reveals himself as an experienced songwriter who has grown extremely confident in his own skin, finding a way to blend the epic narratives of Bruce Springsteen with the withering self-examination of Kurt Cobain.
This unique voice gives him a gift for self-exploration, used to great effect in “My Eating Disorder,” a raw look at Stickles’ struggles with a condition called selective eating disorder, and “I Am the Electric Man,” a hilarious account of his electrocution at the hands of a microphone written on the way to the emergency room. But it’s perhaps most powerful when the lens is turned on society in songs like “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus,” which is the album’s most accomplished track.
Reading and sounding like an updated version of Springsteen’s “Jungleland,” the song tells of lives lost and dreams broken in a highway crash, as motorists sit in their cars and seethe about the traffic backup, “hating that which comes between them and their coffee.”
If you can hear a line like, “I’ve adored every inch of this country through the same dirty windshield / Peeking through blotches of the blood of bugs toward the Elysian Fields” and not be immediately hooked, I suggest you stop reading here. You’re too far gone for me to be of any help at this point.
It’s easy to think of Titus Andronicus in terms of what they lack. They could be a less lovelorn Replacements, a less neurotic Weezer or a less hopeful Springsteen; however, they’re a lot more remarkable for what they do have: a raw punk energy and an infectious dive-bar sound missing in so much of today’s glossy, dancefloor ready music.
As media-appointed “saviors of rock” — like The Strokes and The White Stripes — Titus Andronicus have yet to fall apart or become shadows of their former selves. The place of real, authentic guitar rock in our culture has become precarious. Now, I’m no traditionalist grouch — I’m really excited about the meteoric rise of electronic music and the re-emergence of great rap — but rock ’n’ roll is too essential to our culture for us to simply let it die out.
Rock is authentic, gritty and simply real in a way pop can never emulate, and a synthesizer will never be able to sock you in the gut the way a perfect guitar riff can. Titus Andronicus may only be three guitars against the rising tide of pop sheen, but, as the stripped-down power of “Local Business” shows, they’re pretty damn good at doing more with less. Here’s to hoping they can stay afloat.