By Andrew Eckhous, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 23, 2012
Nihilism can be so liberating! Just ask Patrick Stickles, the lead singer/shouter of Titus Andronicus. Local Business, the group’s upcoming third album, embraces the unceasing absurdity of the universe, and adds to the already brilliant catalog of Titus Andronicus’ paradoxically optimistic music.
More like this
After three years of EPs and smaller releases, Titus Andronicus fought its way out of Glen Rock, New Jersey and onto the national scene in 2005, with its debut LP, The Airing of Grievances. The group’s seething anger has yet to subside. Titus uses a punk-infused blend of rock to battle fate and the randomness of the universe, cursing what the world hath wrought, rain or shine, 24 hours a day. What else would you expect from a band named after Shakespeare’s most violent and vengeance-filled play?
Like a shark risking death if it stops swimming, Titus Andronicus’s very existence is predicated on the venomous disillusionment and optimistic nihilism of Stickles, the only original member remaining. His backers have come and gone often over the past seven years, leaving Stickles as the face, brain and heart behind everything Titus Andronicus does. Luckily for listeners, Stickles feels sufficiently wronged by the world to continue fighting the good fight and making great music.
It’s difficult to judge Local Business on its own. Titus Andronicus’s first album, The Airing of Grievances overflowed with raw energy and Springsteen-esque storytelling, albeit with a few more snarls. The Monitor, Titus Andronicus’s magnum opus, was a concept album that used the American Civil War as a metaphor for, you guessed it, Stickles’s disillusionment. Critics lauded the album for its sincere lyrics about fear, growing old and the resolve to fight back in the face of insurmountable odds. Both albums graced reputable best-of-the-year lists and inflated expectations for Local Business.
“Ecce Homo” contains the album's thesis statement: “Okay I think that now we've established everything is inherently worthless / And there's nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose.” While it may sound depressing, this realization frees Stickles from expectations, allowing him to excel for the rest of the album.
The lyrics on this album are just as good, if not better, than anything Titus Andronicus has done before. “In a Big City,” the first single released to the public, tells the story of life in a city that just doesn’t care about you. Lines like “Male or female, beggars still the only ones calling me mister” and “From Jersey I come, but I pump my own gas / I’m a dirty bum but I wipe my own ass” give listeners a direct connection to Stickles’ thoughts and make the album an intimate experience. Others, like the magnificently titled “Titus Andronicus Vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO),” are simple and visceral. In that song, Stickles yells, “I’m going insane!” over meaty punk riffs for two minutes straight.
Overall, Local Business is more straightforward than Titus Andronicus’s previous two albums. Stickles decided to ditch the concept album format and return to the roots of punk: playing loud guitars and cursing the universe until he’s too drunk to walk.