Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Album Review: Titus Andronicus's Local Business

“Blah blah blah the Monitor defined the past two years of my life and Local Business is a total let down because blah blah blah.” I guarantee you’ll see most every negative review of Titus Andronicus’s newest full-length Local Business begin with some variation of this line. Before I go any further, yes, The Monitor did define my freshman year of college; I played it into the fucking ground. I learned the chords to “The Battle of Hampton Roads” and played it when I was drunk. I toyed around with the idea of getting a tattoo dedicated to the band. The Monitor marks a confusing, often frustrating time in my life that I’m glad to have survived. That being said, Local Business is not The Monitor, but I don’t consider that a pejorative statement. Who wants to hear the same record twice?

Local Business, as its own entity, is a very strong release. The vision Patrick Stickles and co. puts forth is cohesive and defined. There are less instances of lyrical interpolation and more existential crises. Stickles seems even more wary and cautious of the world before him than he has previously.  “Ecce Homo” kicks off the record with a confident, conversational manner. The build up for this record is deliberate, though. “Still Life With Hot Deuce on Silver Platter” is where you really gotta turn the volume up, because that track rips. The momentum barrels through “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus”, easily the most energetic song, but with insanely bleak lyrics; arguably the darkest Stickles has written.

The rug that ties the room together is found on “My Eating Disorder”. Stickles is notoriously a proponent of three movement songs, and this cut is no exception. By this point, Titus has honed this hobby of sorts into a master craft. The first movement is catchy and angry. “No I haven’t had dinner, what about it!?” The pathos continues into the second movement, with just the repetition of the track’s name. Before you know it, we’re in the third movement, with Stickles espousing “Spit It Out” in conjunction with the heavy-ass guitar riff. There’s nothing technically complex about it, but everything about this song screams like a twisted anthem.

A lot of the lyrics on Local Business reference or reflect statements Patrick Stickles has made on Twitter a number of times. Therefore, I felt more as if this was a very conversation album. These were ideas that have clearly been gestating for sometime, and it’s interesting that Twitter provided the first insight into the lyrical content.

If nothing else, Titus Andronicus knows how to structure an album. We get “Titus Andronicus Vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)” which nicely transitions into the one-two punch of “In A Big City” and “In A Small Body”. These songs perfectly exhibit the band’s shift towards less monumental songs and more organic songs that incorporate a lot more piano. It’s a very casual  album, and the sound compliments it quite nicely. Penultimate track “I Am The Electric Man” does last a little too long for its own good, straddling the line between a necessary comic relief and drawn out filler. The album ends on a high (depressing) note with “Tried To Quit Smoking”. The strength here isn’t the lyrics, but the music. On such an organic album, this ending is inevitable and necessary.  Say what you will, Titus knows how to close.

Again, I’m sure there will be some negative reviews of Local Business focusing not on what the album is, but how it's not The Monitor. It’s a shame, because in its own right, Local Business is an incredibly strong third record that deserves to be blasted. 

Final Grade: A-

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