REVIEW: Titus Andronicus – Local BusinessPosted: October 23, 2012
High ambitions are always a tell-tale way of separating the good artists from the great, and when Titus Andronicus released their sophomore effort, The Monitor, in 2010, it was clear that the band fell into the latter. The New Jersey punk band had crafted an epic, sprawling concept album based on the American civil war that, while slightly ridiculous, was lauded by many as one of the best albums of that year. Now back with Local Business, the band have streamlined their sound with mixed results.
Titus Andronicus, much like the Shakespeare tragedy their name is derived from, are a wonderfully pessimistic band. From the get-go, they make it obvious; “Okay I think by now we’ve established / everything is inherently worthless / and there’s nothing in the universe with any objective purpose” snarls frontman Patrick Stickles on album opener “Ecce Homo“. Never one to mince words, Stickles discusses topics such as eating disorders, apathy and mental health with the kind of honesty that is refreshing to hear put down on record.
Musically, the band haven’t wandered too far from where they were before. The record still holds that raw, hot-blooded passion that has now become synonymous with Titus Andronicus, and while they’ve always worn their influences on their sleeves, there’s enough here to make them stand out. The vast majority of songs carry a frantic merriment among them, which creates a juxtaposition with the lyrics.
Lead single ‘In a Big City‘ was the first indication of a new direction for the band. The song has a straightforward structure that would have seemed alien to the band in years past, but Stickle’s tenacity still shines through. ‘In a Small Body‘ shows a slower, more mellow side that is rare to see from the band, complete with soothing strings at the midpoint. There are glimmers of The Monitor here, especially on ‘My Eating Disorder‘, an 8-minute epic, complete with a chant of “spit it out” from Stickles ad infinitum and frequent guitar solos that add to the victorious feel of the album.
For those hoping for ‘The Monitor Part 2‘, this follow-up will no doubt come as a disappointment, but the smaller scope has given the band time to tighten their sound. The production is sleeker and they operate as a band rather than an ensemble this time around. Stickle‘s hilariously bleak outlooks will forever be worth listening to.