Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Let’s face it; when you’re young, you’re dramatic. Whether it’s swearing you love your first girlfriend more than you love your own family or swearing your life is over when they inevitably end it over something that amounts to nothing, teenagers are quick to hyperbole. As young men, the members of Titus Andronicus espouse more melodramatic words of misery than the play they take their namesake from. Known for being one of the most violent and disturbing of the Shakespeare tragedies, Patrick Stickles and crew take every once of blood spilled by Shakespeare’s characters and turn into pure energy.

A great mix of punk and lo-fi indie prowess, these guys use their youth to their advantage, whether it’s their manic energy or almost satirical amount of melodramatic emotive lyrics, that namedrop Civil War battleships and shout paranoid war cries like “The enemy is everywhere!” Much like their debut, The Airing of Grievances, much of the album is a mix of blazing punk drums, jangling guitars which spit out an infinity’s worth of great, quickfire solos, and of course Stickles’  droning, snarling singing and some spoken word pieces that act as bookends for many of the songs on the album, such as the excellent opener “A More Perfect Union”.

Lyrically, the album is an anachronistic mix of pure modern-day dramatic calls like “You will always be a loser” and historical event name-drops; the album itself is steeped in Civil War references, whether it’s a war drumlines that act as ambient noise in the back of many tracks or the track names that tell tales of Soldier’s woes like “A More Perfect Union” or “Four Score and Seven”. The album itself is meant to be a tribute to the battle between the Monitor and the CSS Virginia, which actually culminates in the final track “The Battle of Hampton Roads”, which is by far the sweeping epic that truly shows all of the strengths of these guys. Its 14-minute length only continues to point out the fact that this is meant to be the centerpiece of the album, and it doesn’t disappoint; a great mix of Stickles’ brilliant first-person lyrical prose, clanging guitars that spit out inspired, if a bit repetitive, chords, and the always driving drums that can only be more catchy if they threw in some handclaps.

A number of guests, from the Hold Steady to Vivian Girls, show up on the album to add a bit of experience and granduer to the whole thing, but the way these early 20-something’s play, you’d swear they’ve been doing it for years. More than almost any other band, Titus Andronicus sound like their own beast, whether it’s their odd dedication to throwing a screaming guitar into any nook or cranny they can, Stickles’ idiosyncratic everyman, totally working-class first-person lyrics that throw out just as much misery and anger as his breathy, cracked throat singing voice, and of course some excellent drumming that pounds every song forward as fast as they possibly go; just imagine if Steve Shelly had a son that was raised by David Lothering, and you’d get the idea.

Titus Andronicus, a band that are barely even old enough to drink, have already proven themselves before, yet on The Monitor, they show they can truly go the extra mile. If The Airing of Grievances was their, well, airing of grievances to the world that has seemingly scorned them into more misery than 20+ years should reciprocate, The Monitor is their growing up, their building of tolerance, and their sweeping epic call to the same world that even less than 2 years after their debut, they have more than enough tried-and-true ideas, great stories, and pure adrenaline to destroy it. They’ve found their confidence, and they’re willing to drink to it.

Score: A-

by Trevor “Young and Restless” Johnson

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5 Comments

  1. Reviews Update! « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] Titus Andronicus – The Monitor […]

  2. Jon said,

    I almost never comment on anything, but I really like this band and since this album hasn’t been properly released yet, I figure there is time to rectify a seemingly careless mistake that the writer of this article made… The lead singer/songwriter is Patrick Stickles, not bassist Ian Graetzer. I also assume it’d be less embarrassing to hear that from me, rather than be notified by the band itself.

    Good album, though. Not as good as Airing, but few albums are.

  3. averyisland said,

    It’s no problem, and thanks for the correction! Information on the band is sparse.

  4. Garrett said,

    Truly a fantastic album, Great review!

  5. Johnug said,

    You have tested it and writing form your personal experience or you find some information online?

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