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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Is For Tunes: Titus Andronicus


Sometimes you need music you can sing along to at 3am when you’re drunk with your friends, stuck in a small town, and have to go work in four hours at a job that is a complete insult to your intelligence. The sophomore effort from Titus Andronicus, The Monitor, is an album filled with songs to meet this essential need. There’s enough blustering rage and epic rock outs to satisfy any inebriated nihilist. It’s a soundtrack for when you want to break things for the fun of it or yell into the void until your throat is so raw it bleeds, and I wholeheartedly approve.

Actually, getting drunk and yelling are both pretty easy. What makes Titus Andronicus notable is that they do it grandly and intelligently. Their anger has a slew of justifications, and they articulate it with sounds that pay homage to that complexity. Just because everything’s going to hell doesn’t mean you can’t go out with some grace and a fight. Rife with both impassioned battle cries and eloquent quotes, this spirit resounds throughout their new album.

Named after the USS Monitor, an ironclad warship of the Civil War, The Monitor isn’t quite a concept album, but it is clearly themed after that great war. Titus Andronicus take the concept of the Civil War and reinterpret it to their own postmodern applications. These songs are about the strife of being American, a personal civil war that it seems many Americans have internalized recently. Maybe we were promised too much. Nonetheless, I cannot deny that most people I know are discontent, and having difficulty reconciling the current state of our society. Titus Andronicus recognize this, and more. Lots of people are pissed, and there is strength in numbers. So, in their lyrics they call out “rally around the flag”, and “the enemy is everywhere”. This album is like an anthem for the formation of a new “more perfect union” with kids, punks, and disenfranchised idealists as the leaders.

The quotes are one of the most striking elements of the album. They add aural texture, and they draw me in, enriching and deepening my listening experience. Basically, I’m a simple sucker for any song with distorted samples of people speaking. For The Monitor, Titus Andronicus assembled a talented cast of speakers, and all the readings contribute to the Civil War theme. The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn reads a piece by Walt Whitman on the burial of a soldier. Cassie Ramone from Vivian Girls quotes Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. And, Okey Canfield Chenoweth, a little-known teacher and poet, gives a portrayal of Abraham Lincoln that will shake the very marrow of your bones.

In summation, The Monitor is a quality sophomore effort by Titus Andronicus. The album balances nihilism and idealism in an intense and fully realized delivery that speaks to me on a profound level. As a bonus, the Civil War theme appeals to my inner American history nerd, and the sampled quotes appeal to my music nerd side. Amazingly, I just won tickets from Y-Rock on XPN to see Titus Andronicus live Thursday, and I am fully prepared to yell and rock. The Monitor came out last month, and the band is currently on tour to support its release.

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