Titus Andronicus have always had their ambitions and they came to a head in 2010 with The Monitor, one of the great albums of the 2010s -a place where the civil war met a man in transition. Driving back after quitting college and losing his girlfriend, Titus leader Patrick Stickles tied the end of the civil war to the start of his career as a rock star and had the songs to pull it off.
Five years later, Titus Andronicus have out done themselves with the sprawling The Most Lamentable Tragedy, 98 minutes of punk rock and everything that came before slipping through everything from the 15 second “Look Alive” to the nine minute plus “More Perfect Union” to the seven minutes of silence “Intermission (I think I’ll skip that one if it is all the same).
The album release date is still Tuesday July 28th according to Merge but one would guess it will be changed to the Friday.
Here is Merge’s PR release:
“The Most Lamentable Tragedy [hereafter TMLT] is the fourth studio album by Titus Andronicus [hereafter +@] and the band’s debut for Merge Records. A rock opera in five acts, it will see release on July 28, 2015, as a digital download, double CD, and triple LP.
The central narrative of TMLT (“a work of fiction,” claims singer/songwriter Patrick Stickles) concerns an unnamed protagonist whom we meet in deep despair. Following an encounter with his own doppelgänger (an enigmatic stranger, identical in appearance though opposite in disposition), long held secrets are revealed, sending our protagonist on a transformative odyssey, through past lives and new loves, to the shocking revelation that the very thing that sustains him may be the thing to destroy him.
TMLT was produced by frequent collaborator Kevin McMahon and +@ lead guitarist Adam Reich. The core band is rounded out by the long-standing rhythm section of Eric Harm (drums) and Julian Veronesi (bass) plus rookie guitarist Jonah Maurer. Joining in throughout are pianist Elio DeLuca and violinist Owen Pallett, beside a cast of guests representing some of New York’s most exciting bands (The So So Glos, Baked, Bad Credit No Credit, Lost Boy?, etc.).
TMLT is both the crown jewel of the band’s discography and the legend that contextualizes their entire body of work. It reveals that +@ are what hardcore fans have said they are for years, and what the world must now recognize them to be: not merely the greatest rock and roll band of this era, but one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time.”
Jason Heller of NPR (so we know what that’s worth but…) wrote: “Stickles’ passionate, immersive, indelibly catchy song-cycle may not be strictly Shakespearean in scope and execution. But it aims for the same grand scale: a way to use immaculate craft and universal themes to expose — and even celebrate — the messiness of the human experience.”
I’ll buy in that far though Heller got it wrong when he went back as far as Zen Arcade and London Calling to find precedent. My bet is Fucked Up’s David Comes Alive is the big one.
So without listening all the way to the end of this very ambitious album, and while admitting that I will write about it more and slower until I write something remotely closed to a final opinion, the closest to a knockout punch I’ve heard, I’d already heard: “Dimed Out” and one of the top songs of the year (at the very least) “Fatal Flaw”, I haven’t heard what I’m waiting for. Also, how many times can I even listen to it all the way through? Who can provide that much time? Of the three songs that are already released, I have my doubts about “Come On, Siobhan”…
It sounds great but it sounds too much, it overloads you and not in a great way (though certainly in a good way). But I may be wrong, the move between the two parts of the album, from “More Perfect Unions” extended instrumental coda to “Sun Salutations” a capella and then the classic rock thump of “(S)HE SAID/(S)HE SAID” is kinda major stuff… Nobody else can do it.
Yet still… a first opinion, without finishing it through even once? “B+”.
If you want to make up your own mind, stream it here.
an anthem for the ages and a thrilling version
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