It was just over two and a half years ago that Titus Andronicus spit in the face of the dreaded sophomore slump that so many of today’s buzz bands face and released the outright epic The Monitor to widespread acclaim. Regarded as one of the best punk albums of the 2000′s (and often beyond), The Monitor contains 10 tracks clocking in at over 65 minutes and “uses the American Civil War…as an extended metaphor for feelings of responsibility and the destructive relationship between the self and the other”, to quote frontman Patrick Stickles. So…how the hell is anyone supposed to follow that up?
The short answer would be that you can’t. Any follow-up is going to seem light-hearted in comparison and in order to avoid repetitiveness, cannot include allusions to Abe Lincoln, which can clearly be an integral component to crafting punk anthems. So with this month’s release of the highly anticipated follow-up Local Business, the question at hand is how exactly Stickles would approach his songwriting with the shadow of The Monitor looming large behind. And not being one to stick with consistency, the first thing Stickles did was trim down the man power. The 2010-2011 version of Titus was a veritable revolving door of musicians, seeking assistance from the likes of The Hold Steady, Wye Oak, and even local faves Hallelujah the Hills, along with many more. Now trimmed down to a comparatively thin core of five members, some old and some new, Stickles got down to business (heh) and successfully crafted an honest, genuine, and kick-ass album.
Right from the get go, Local Business punches you in the face, grabs you by the hair, shoves you in the mud, picks you back up, hands you a beer, and then pushes you into the mosh pit. Opener “Ecce Homo”, or as all you Latin lovers know “Here is the Man”, is the thesis of Local Business, with the boys of Titus letting you know that they don’t give a shit about what you think; they’re just here to have a good time. From there, “Still Life With Hot Deuce On A Silver Platter” is a raucous romp featuring former Hallelujah the Hills piano contributor Elio DeLuca tingling the keys, doing his best Old West barroom pianist impression. “Deuce” leads up to my early favorite “My Eating Disorder”, which takes you on an 8-minute plus ride featuring a glorious twin-lead guitar lick followed by Stickles’ shouting of “spit it out” repeated over and over with increasing vigor until tumbling to a close. Lead single “In A Big City” broods hopefully, with Stickles likening himself to a robot from New Jersey who may be a dirty bum, but still wipes his own ass.
And it’s raw and gritty lyrics like these, mixed in with the occasional political charge, that make Local Business an anthemic collection of punk rock songs that can hold its own up against The Monitor, if you’re the type to draw conclusions from such comparisons. Either way, this album deserves a fresh look, full volume, and bountiful beers. And I for one can’t wait to see these guys for the first time in Boston at the Sinclair at the end of next month.