Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Album Review: Titus Andronicus- The Most Lamentable Tragedy

Titus Andronicus
The Most Lamentable Tragedy
*** out of *****

If there are two words that strike fear into many fans of popular music when they are combined "rock-oprea" could very well be at the top of the list. One band on the current scene, and a song writer in particular who could pull it off would be Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus. The Most Lamentable Tragedy tries to do just that, but in the end, scattered results keep it from the heights it is shooting for.

Let me take a step back here and give some personal background. The site focuses on full albums and we still only listen to music this way. No shuffle, no nitpicking a track here or there and we love when artists take these leaps. Being a fan of this band gave us very high hopes for this disk, so this isn't a matter of form, it is more a matter of execution.

TMLT is huge, angsty, hymn filled and sprawling all over the place, one listen will not do much good, hell it takes a few just to dig into the themes. Beginning and ending with the same droning organ bookends the effort but "No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant" is the first proper tune.

The song goes after an upbeat punk kick in the teeth setting the stage for whats to come, however for a man with so much to say the mushed vocal production is off putting and this unfortunately is a constant on the album. The DIY sounding production fits the Husker Du Zen Arcade link but pushes away many listeners who would benefit for Stickles "fictional" workings here dealing with depression/anxiety to be more lyrically accessible.

Sure, you can argue there is an added "punkness" to the sound and buried vocals, but punk bands make 22 minute full length albums, Titus covers that with two tracks on TMLT. If you are striving for something more, something higher (which they clearly are) a handbook or annotated lyric sheets from shouldn't be needed to parse the couplets.

For more on the individual songs (which really just sink into the overall aesthetic) "Lonely Boy" stands out. The vocals and lyrics scream to be isolated/left alone but the backing track with huge piano runs, a swaggering rhythm and a motoring air of confidence (more than on any other song here), plays up the critical duality felt throughout the disk.

"Lost My Mind" easily recalls a Jersey hero of Stickles, Bruce Springsteen, as does "Fatal Flaw" adding a classic rock twist to the punk. The segues of "Look Alive", "The Magic Morning" and "Lookalike" feel forced and clunky while "Dimed Out" oppositely blasts with slamming hardcore and slashes excellently.

The Pogues get a punch in the chest as the band twists things slightly with the lyrics to fit the albums vision a bit, while TA's artiness gets the best of them when the excellent guitar work on "I'm Going Insane" slams into the jarring feedback of "Into The Void" off-putting and again crushes the vocals. Those guitars do sound firm though and when solos are given air, such as on "Stranded", the six strings shine.    

After listening and living with TMLT it certainly feels more like an album Stickles had to make more then one we need to hear. It would be a fitting closing chapter on Titus Andronicus as a project if he chooses, or they (he really) could keep soldiering on as punk rock purists either way we will still be listening, because he will always be worth checking out.
Catching up on some releases this week that are from earlier in 2015 of artists we like. All that said, support the band, buy the album and peep some video below:

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