Album: Local Business
Label: XL Recordings
It’s conceivable that an indie band from New Jersey could ultimately achieve the unthinkable: become bigger than Shakespeare. Well, ole Billy Shakes probably doesn’t have to worry about his legacy but it’s possible that Titus Andronicus could soon become more synonymous with the band than with one of Shakespeare’s early and rarely produced plays. Although there are telltale signs, with only 3 out of the first 10 listings on Google dedicated to the over 400 year old tragedy. The band Titus Andronicus have been able to do it with a debut album that was full of youth vengeance, and a follow up concept album that established them as one of the premier up and coming groups. With their third album Local Business they are attempting to keep it fresh by keeping it simple. Their live shows have been known as some of the most entertaining, so they have released 10 songs that will slide right into their live set quite well.
Titus Andronicus’ punk sound is actually more of a low fi sound. I have never seen a Titus Andronicus’ show, but I’m guessing that they are fueled by driving guitars and wailing vocals like most punk shows. When “Ecce Homo” starts the album you hear a building rock and roll anthem that feels like it’s holding back. No doubt when the song is played live it’ll feel like a punch in the face, but on record it feels muted. It does have a nice tone that sets the album off a pretty strong note as it heads into a classic TA titled track “Still Life With Hot Deuce on Silver Platter”. In what might be the strongest track on the album they come with standard punk rock stanzas but it’s actually the quiet moments that really make this song, as well as the majority of the album strong. “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus” will keep peoples heads bobbing as well as send them to the dictionary to figure out what detritus means (Non-living organic material). It’s the kind of metaphor that frontman Patrick Stickles loves, looking at beauty while realizing that it’s full of dead shit. Then just when you think things are getting a little high brow they come with a silly punk rock shout out with “Food Fight”, but it’s actually just a clever lead in to “My Eating Disorder” which is actually an interesting look at Shickley’s own eating habits. At 8 minutes it maintains a varied and up-tempo pace that you wouldn’t expect. “Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)” is kind of where things start to derail though. Stickles wails that he’s going insane in an over the top emo moment that reminds you that these guys are still really just kids in grown up beards. “In a Big City” reiterates that notion with an irish punk rock song about the hipster working class. “In a Small Body” and (I Am The) Electric Man starts to slow things down but keeps things upbeat and even silly when the back up singers echo “he is the Electric Man”. Maybe a Muppet Show appearance is not too far in Titus Andronicus’ future. “Tried to Quit Smoking” is the obligatory final song ballad that eventually morphs into a ho-hum blues jam.
Titus Andronicus have done everything that a successful indie band should do with their 3rd album. It doesn’t hit it out of the park, but it’s a solid effort that will no doubt delight their fans listening on their record players, and even more that go to see them live. The songs have a more driving purpose and have a subtle intelligent tone about life as seen through Patrick Stickles. Stickles’ though is Titus Andronicus, so it’s quite possible that when all is said and done on this earth, he’ll be the first one that comes up when people think of the name.
– Michael Unger