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Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

November 14, 2015


I am not much of a punk music fan so I ignored Titus Andronicus despite all the hype over that last few years. I recently heard the band’s leader Patrick Stickles on a WTF podcast and was absolutely charmed and intrigued to check out the band’s ambitious new album The Most Lamentable Tragedy.

I listened to it on Spotify and was blown away. This is epic Born To Run Springsteen, The Who, Queen, Johnny Rotten and The Pouges inspired rock and roll. The band’s tag line for the album is: “a rock opera in five acts.”

I am in no position to provide a plot synopsis. So I will defer to the Pitchfork review:

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a story told in five acts that follows the Hero, an unnamed man (who’s someone like Stickles) in an unnamed city (which is somewhere like New York) grappling with his neuroses. He’s confronted by his doppelgänger—an alternate self that seems to have everything figured out, and pushes him to find solace outside of sin. It’s a protracted allegory for manic depression, which Stickles has publicly struggled with since the band first came to attention.

I can speak to the music.  It is both majestic and messy. It is both stadium rock and dive bar punk. It has tremendous anger and tender moments.

This is the second three-LP masterpiece I have enjoyed this year. Kamasi Washington’s The Epic being the first.  Washington mined a couple of generations of jazz for his album. Titus Andronicus has done the same with rock and roll.

Patrick Stickles has an amazing voice. Once you get used to the shredding vocal chords and phlegmatic scream you come to appreciate what a brilliant and expressive instrument it is.

This is never garden variety garage rock, it is more in line with the ambitious wall of sound of mid-70s Springsteen. Lots of big guitar, but also plenty of keyboards, woodwinds, strings and back up vocals. If you want to dip your toe in the water with one of their more accessible yet complex numbers try “Lonely Boy.”

Some may find the album pretentious, I prefer to call it ambitious.  It is albums like this that restore my faith in rock and roll. This is a dramatic presentation of raw human emotion: pissed, in love, self loathing, in lust, adrenaline fueled euphoria and an occasional fist through the wall. In short: rock and roll and I like it (if you don’t póg mo thóin).

 

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