TITUS ANDRONICUS – The Monitor (2010)

Titus Andronicus’ 2008 debut, The Airing of Grievances, was one of the best albums of that year. This was, for those with indie short-term memories, the same year that No Age and Vivian Girls got praised heaped upon them for doing, essentially, nothing. Well, that last bit isn’t true; both bands released startlingly bland albums that were lauded for their lo-fi aesthetics. Titus Andronicus, on the other hand, released a collection of literate, working-class punk songs, full of wry humor and raw energy, that bemoaned banality and celebrated endings, in all their various forms. In the song which bears their namesake, vocalist Patrick Stickles, yelping like Conor Oberst on a cocaine binge, screams the album’s penultimate decree until he’s just about to blow: “Your life is over.” In that one song, Titus Andronicus packed more sincerity, weight and raving emotion than No Age exhibited in all of Nouns. And with The Monitor, Titus Andronicus have upped the ante, releasing a sprawling, 70-minute concept album about the American Civil War.

Now, for most bands, releasing a 70-minute concept album about the American Civil War would be a career-ending move, but Titus Andronicus inject such a potent combination of youthfully existential angst and unyielding brotherhood into all these massive songs, that it becomes kind of hard to picture the band doing anything else for a sophomore album. The Monitor feels as though it exists out of necessity; this is an album that Titus Andronicus were born to make. Four Score and Seven transcends from folk roots to punk branches so perfectly, you may not even notice. No Future Part Three feels like the next logical extension of what I can only assume will be an ongoing song series. And the album closer, the 14-minute The Battle of Hampton Roads proceeds like a victory march – there’s even a bagpipe melody near the end of it, and in the middle, Stickles howls out a resigned monologue that highlights – nay, exalts – his deficiencies and failures, in a moment of earnest punk-rock defiance that likely won’t be matched all year. The entire album is filled with exhilarating grandiosity. More than that, it’s the sound of a band taking huge risks, and having every single one of them pay out in full.

I cannot recommend The Monitor enough. I’ve been listening to it all day. It’s not an album I’ll be putting aside soon, and it’s not one I want to. If you can’t wait for the new Hold Steady album to come out (sidenote: Craig Finn appears on The Monitor, reading some verses of Walt Whitman), or you’re just so tired of all the mall-punk that’s permeated our culture, The Monitor is just what you need. It has all the makings of a classic, and it’s the most American album I’ve heard in years. I can’t phrase it any better than that.

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One Response to “TITUS ANDRONICUS – The Monitor (2010)”

  1. […] ultra lo-fi recordings. Plus, there’s a couple of great covers, to boot. And seeing as how The Monitor is the album to beat for 2010, you kind of owe it to yourself to get […]

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