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Posted on July 21st, 2015 (10:00 am) by Nick Manai

Titus Andronicus’ fourth LP The Most Lamentable Tragedy will be described as an “epic release.” How could it not be? With twenty-nine songs that run longer than some feature films, TMLT is a five-part rock opera with its own unconventional overtures and interludes, a main protagonist (and his doppelgänger) and its very own intermission. If you have grappled with the confident, yet self-loathing, ambition of Patrick Stickles and Titus Andronicus before then none of this should seem too surprising. Stickles’ music has always interwoven familiar characters (mostly himself) in similar environments (mostly New Jersey) and has repeatedly sought, and achieved, a heightening of artistic credibility for its association with philosophy, history and canonized literature.

But then there were the stakes of 2010's The Monitor, the career-defining masterpiece that was influenced in equal parts by Ken Burns’ own “epic,” the PBS documentary The Civil War, and those routine Saturday nights spent puking under the traffic light and picking up half-smoked cigarette butts all up and down Rock Road. Craig Finn read Whitman, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address was quoted and the album finishes after a blistering bag-pipe solo that would rival any Scottish wake. Alongside The Monitor, TMLT is not an “epic release,” but that is due to lack of trying.

TMLT is an album of closure. Stickles said in a recent interview that he saw the record as a way to catalog, and correct, his twenties as he steps across the void into his thirties. He says it’s a way to share, “what I have learned, [while] sorrowing what I learned too late.” As in any Titus Andronicus release the loathing of the self’s past indiscretions and failures is domineering influence, all be it usually in reaction to an even more decrepit surrounding presence. But there is also hope, the hope of punk rock and love, which, for a band as unrestrained live as Titus Andronicus are, is actually the same thing.

The songs on TMLT focus on the interior of depression, madness, and aggression rather than the unifying power these states can effect through fraternity, as on The Monitor. And the music mostly reflects that sentiment. These songs are pure adrenaline shots of simple punk grindings. The grandiose eclipses and crescendos of The Monitor are replaced by an incisive compactness. Even when there is a sax solo or string interplay it feels more complimentary than centering. Most tracks on TMLT are structurally normal, giving up the winding inventiveness of The Monitor.

But of course there is lyrical ambition. Our main character goes on a Dante-like trip through hell and back exposing weakness in everything from church, state, pharmaceuticals and back through to the “nuclear family.” On TMLT Stickles’ writing is its most profound when it stays interior, as on “I Lost My Mind,” “Funny Feeling” and “Fatal Flaw,” scolding himself for his own idealism and wondering what, if anything, he has actually learned.

The answer is probably closer to nothing than to something; but the search has taken him the ten years from twenty to thirty and the experiences have created the ability to build this monument to times passing. In its deconstruction perhaps there is something for a younger artist to learn or maybe the simple polemics of the past is the whole reward. Which is another way of saying that TMLT is a triumph of wills. The will to look further and deeper and longer than others; an attribute that doesn’t wear thin here, even if it doesn’t solidify a second “epic-masterpiece.”

Track List:

  1. The Angry Hour
  2. No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant
  3. Stranded (On My Own)
  4. Lonely Boy
  5. I Lost My Mind
  6. Look Alive
  7. The Magic Morning
  8. Lookalike
  9. I Lost My Mind
  10. Mr. E. Mann
  11. Fired Up
  12. Dimed Out
  13. More Perfect Union
  14. [intermission]
  15. Sun Salutation
  16. (S)he Said/(S)he Said
  17. Funny Feeling
  18. Fatal Flaw
  19. Please
  20. Come On, Siobhán
  21. A Pair of Brown Eyes
  22. Auld Lang Syne
  23. I'm Going Insane (Finish Him)
  24. The Fall
  25. Into the Void (Filler)
  26. No Future Part V: In Endless Dreaming
  27. [seven seconds]
  28. Stable Boy
  29. A Moral
Titus Andronicus: The Most Lamentable Tragedy
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

75 / 100
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