Jack McGrew, October 24, 2012
Listen: “In A Big City”
There is something inherently American about Titus Andronicus.
It might be the brashness of the sound. Titty Andro has always been unapologetically rough in their style, providing the antonym to a modern scene populated with polish and shine. The band’s latest, Local Business, is no different. There is a complexity in the levels of the fuzz that decorates the album. It is both an exercise in simple chord movement and a syncopation that veers towards unstable that equates the band’s first-talent-show feel. Bold adolescence isn’t a genre yet, but once a Wikipedia entry is finally created, Patrick Stickles toothy grin will surely adorn the top of the page.
It might be the words. These are the lyrics that make you laugh and cry, particularly when you are prone to neither. Dickensian in tone, Stickles delivers his lines with the urgency of a community theater actor, except well. “You’re gonna get your change to be hung / You’ll make a great gift to gracious girls / Try to swallow while you’re still young / That your dick’s too short to fuck the world” Stickles sings on “In A Small Body.” It’s funny and violent and overwrought and very very genuine.
There’s just something about the guitar parts that sound like bagpipes. It’s a sound Titus has flirted with since The Airing of Grievances, but it has finally been fully realized. On tracks like “My Eating Disorder,” Stickles sings: “One more time, I decide, I decide what goes inside / I decide what goes inside my body / My eating disorder it’s inside me” He proceeds from treating the album like his diary to raging, heavy metal-esque guitar hooks for the next three odd minutes. It’s these lines used as punctuations that create the heaviest hits from the album.
It’s an evolution. Local Business is just begging to not be compared to The Monitor. Where the latter succeeded in tone and mood and narrative, its successor shrugs these petty feelings off. I haven’t read many Stickles interviews during this album cycle, but if I was to make one up off the top of my head this is about where we would land:
Q: It seems like Local Business has a very different feel than your previous albums, was this intentional?
PS: Oh yeah. Big time. I wanted to think less about the bigger picture and focus on making some fucking rock and roll.
I don’t think this assumption is off base because this album is more about the songs than anything else and Stickles absolutely seems like the kind of guy who would earnestly say ‘fucking rock and roll’ in an interview with Pitchfork or something.
The maturation of content makes sense. The songs still have a common bond, but many of them stand alone now in a way that The Monitor sometimes wavered with. It accomplishes this without forfeiting the feel of cohesion. It’s the kind of album where any single track could come up on shuffle and it’d feel natural. And it will feel natural.
The Monitor required a mood; at least it did for me. That mood involved the weather and my emotions and where my side of the earth was relatively speaking with regards to the sun. Basically, it’s hard to pull out a track like “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future” in the middle of a beautiful June day. Tracks like “I Am (The Electric Man)” do not fall to the same curse. When Stickles sings “Electric Man’s always got a helping hand for the motherland / But it makes it so hard to hold on to the metal can” it doesn’t matter what the situation: its effective.
At its core, its not the brashness and the intelligence and the emotion that makes this band and album feel so goddamn patriotic. It’s what it accomplishes. The end of “In a Big City” is not only ‘triumphant’ and ‘overblown’ et al. It’s super personal. It is the sound of driving in your hometown and there is snow and you are coming down and everything looks like Bon Iver. It is the sound of waking up outside six hours after you fell asleep and everything is dark and you forget yourself for a second. It is being young and flippant and beautiful and dumb. It’s inherently of a time and a place, and it feels like us. It is the sound of every success and every mistake you’ve ever made.
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