“The Most Lamentable Tragedy” Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

The Most Lamentable Tragedy Album Review

Merge Records

Released July 28, 2015

Genre: Indie Rock, Punk Rock, Heartland Rock, Rock N’ Roll

I honestly didn’t think I could finish this album. Being a 93 min punk rock album I was worried that the songs would run dry and my ears and stamina would become exhausted by the righteous onslaught of power chords, catchy hooks, and emphatic lyricism. Knowing I could listen to a long album in one sitting (To Be Kind), I dove into this monster of a record. Titus Andronicus’ music can best be described by a simple metaphor: True Detective. The groundbreaking TV show shocked audiences for delivering much more than a crime drama by offering existential and philosophical themes and overtones amongst the backdrop of the seemingly ordinary crime scenario. What you get is a TV show that is inviting, inquisitive, and one that makes you think. Such is Titus Andronicus’ music: you get the piercing solos, the chugging power chords, the emphatic choruses, and the undeniable energy – basic stuff. However, amongst these trademarks of a great punk rock band are lyrics that ask questions left and right about mental illness and depression. The album is divided into five “acts” and is composed of five instrumental/silent interludes, three covers, a gospel hymn, and twenty-two rock songs – some ranging from forty-nine seconds to almost ten minutes in length. That’s just the surface; once you unravel this record, it’s a monstrous mind-fuck of a concept that demands repeated listens to be understood but only a few to be respected.

TMLT attest to how much punk has changed these years.There aren’t many punk concept albums out there, the one coming close to memory would be Fucked Up’s David Comes To Life, and that in itself has never been replicated. Frontman Patrick Stickles has always given himself through his music, whether it be special interests or ideas. However, TMLT is his true self, interlaced in the wordy songwriting. Admittedly, this is the band’s toughest album yet; it’s tiring and exhausting trying to decipher each lyrical stanza and line. Where The Monitor’s concept was straightforward as hell (credited to the song titles and album art), TMLT is – in a nutshell – about mental health. According to a Reddit post, the album also details “a complex narrative about Patrick Stickles’s manic depression– the story includes the narrator’s mysterious doppleganger, time travel, a race of superhumans, a female character, etc.” So fully understanding this album’s concept is incredibly hard, it’s like trying to understand Mulholland Dr. and Inception in one sitting.  While any of the songs can go one way or the other, this album can be taken differently. Comment below what you think it’s about and generate discussion. Check on Lyric Genius about what the album means because it will take some time to take in. Now, onto the music.

Due to the wordiness of a lot of these songs, many of them sound the same. There are a few bangers such as the Glory Days-esque “Fatal Flaw”, the Born In The USA cut “Come On, Siobhán”, and the pummeling “I Lost My Mind”. Even the dreary “More Perfect Union” draws many grooves and melodies out longer than it should be, but it’s bloody good. The album highlight, and my favorite song of the year, “Dimed Out” is the most exciting this band will ever sound on this album. Stickles’ words literally spill out of his mouth as he can hardly wait to say them at the right moment. It’s a fun empowering song amidst the slew of depressing and manic-centric tunes. Titus Andronicus owe a lot of their style on this album to Springsteen dynamics and string flairs, dueling Thin Lizzy guitars, and Costello-like lyricism. The writing is sharp, witty, and on point. Blending heartland rock with punk rock is novel idea that Titus Andronicus have pulled off with ease.

“No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant” starts the album out strong with some staccato riffs reminiscent of many of the solos found on The Monitor; however, the song pummels like an Airing of Grievances cut. “Stranded (On My Own)” has Stickles shrieking away while the cleverly titled “Mr. E Mann” is a steady pulse that leads into the equally dynamic “Fired Up”, which leads into the incredible “Dimed Out”. The witty title of (S)HE SAID/(S)HE SAID” gives what it suggest, an interesting discussion between to individuals that Stickles frenetically tells with vigor and power. THe production on here fluctuates between astounding recordings and lo-fi disasters, although I believe they were intentional. Nonetheless, the album is brilliantly paced and, given it’s run time, can be finished by the average listener in 1-2 sittings. Amongst the knotty guitars , Stickles life is here in the flesh and out in the open, a life worth seeing, observing, and living.

Some tracks on here sift through different emotions as well. Such as on “A Pair Of Brown Eyes”,” their cover of The Pogues classic. “Mr. E Mann” can best be compared to ” (I Am The) Electric Man” from Local Business, which was inspired by Stickles grabbing a live mic during a performance. It brings to question the role of electroshock therapy for depressive people, and it instantly turns this song into a weighty topic. The mood shifts in the closer “Stable Boy”, where Stickles repeats and obsesses over “forever” knowing that it’s better to have lived than to not live at all. Just as The Monitor was a metaphor for Stickles’ life, TMLT digs deeper into his psyche and confronts angst, depression, and insanity head on, confronting to problems until empowerment is the only feeling out there. Once the album is over, that’s all you will feel – granted you feel energized enough to begin again. For Titus Andronicus, the future is a vast landspace and they can go anywhere from here.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a bold and creative move for the band. It’s rare to find a band with so much to say and saying it with as much time as they can. Stickles doesn’t let the listeners off easy on this one; he wants you to listen carefully and listen well. There’s a cover of “Auld Lang Syne” here and that brings to question: how seriously can we take this thing? Sure it can tye into the narrative, ushering in a universal sign for a new beginning, but there’s a track here called “[ seven seconds]” and I begin to question if this album is supposed to be a comprehensive magnum opus or a wordy rant. I will repeat: THIS ALBUM IS A LOT TO TAKE IN. It’s wordy, massive, and requires patience, time, and careful listening. For sure this  an album that will be analyzed and looked into for years to come. This may be the band’s wordiest and least specific album, but it is also their most universal, a sense of broadness that not many bands have fully reached yet.

It’s amazing that it’s only taken them four albums to reach this point; and that, for any band, is an achievement in its own. Despite some clarity or lack of a straightforward message, Titus Anndronicus have given us an album that should be read as a text, as a manifesto, rather than listened. And yet, here we are at 2015 with a monstrous album that’s basically a long metaphorical  speech that begs the question: who’s more insane? To this day, we don’t know. But discussion – talking about it amongst each other, debating what each song is about, pondering the lyrics – will be sure to clarify any doubts that The Most Lamentable Tragedy has put forward.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant, Stranded (On My Own), Lonely Boy, I Lost My Mind, Fired Up, Dimed Out, More Perfect Union, (S)HE SAID/ (S)HE SAID, Fatal Flaw, Come On, Siobhán, I’m Going Insane (Finish Him), No Future Part V: In Endless Dreaming

LEAST FAV TRACKS: N/A

SCORE: (8.5/10)

 

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