Titus Andronicus created a world of buzz when 2010’s The Monitor was released. With maximalist punk/indie rock, the ambitious album captured anthemic, rousing punk rock spirit in eight-minute jams that sometimes included harmonica, bag pipes and spoken word pieces by indie rock celebrities such as Craig Finn. As you may have guessed, the five-piece band needed a little help with that, so the album, and their debut, 2008’s The Airing of Grievances, featured many guest musicians. Plus, both were recorded with a revolving door of band members.
This one is called Local Business, however. The first album recorded with a solid touring unit and few overdubs, played together live in a room with very little help from the outside. It’s easily their most stripped down album, and interestingly sounds like, in a normal band’s (which TA certainly is not) progression, it “should” have been their first album, as it takes the least amount of chances and is overall the least epic in scope (though there are two songs that almost hit the ten minute mark).
Their raggedy Replacements-meets-Springsteen rambunctiousness is still here, and naturally so is the self-loathing and general disgust with Earth and modern society. It’s even referenced by singer Patrick Stickles right out of the gate on the first couplet, during opener “Ecce Homo:” “Okay, I think by now we've established everything is inherently worthless / And there's nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose.” What makes Titus so successful is that while it’s a sentiment many agree with, Stickles always delivers lines like these as if maybe, just maybe, all of us shouting this along together can make everything a little less worthless. “Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape With the Flood of Detritus” is perhaps their most straight forward rock ’n’ roll song ever–and almost sounds as if it could be played on the radio, even if it’s partly about seeing someone die in a car crash and motorists are only upset because they’re stuck in traffic.
Every article written/interview done in promotion for this album mentions the track “My Eating Disorder,” in which Stickles candidly sings about his battle with Selective Eating Disorder (which is exactly what is it sounds like). One of the aforementioned longer tracks, it initially isn’t bogged downed by the weightiness of the lyrical content–the first half of the song is downright peppy. While this kind of warts-and-all lyrical content is not new territory for Stickles, it’s refreshing to hear a male perspective singing about an eating disorder. When the song goes from quick paced to slow and heavy (with a brief stop at submetal riffing in-between) things hit an emotional pinnacle, as Stickles shouts ”spit it out” over and over for the last two minutes. It’s the album’s emotional center, and you would have to be dead inside to not be affected by it. “My Eating Disorder” is sandwiched between two very short rave-ups, “Food Fight!” (I‘m assuming a fight with food) is one minute long and says the title a few times in between solos from various instruments, while “Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)” only contains the line “I’m going insane” in front of awesome early '80s California hardcore fervor.
The album’s weakest track is the last one, “Tried To Quit Smoking,” which details Stickles’s selfishness in life and coping with it: “It's not that I wanted to hurt you / I just didn't care if I did / It is not that I just forgot you / Also, I forgot everything else.” The song is too slow and meanders, plus the chugging climax doesn’t hit at all–the perfect ebb and flow of “My Eating Disorder” is missing here, and sadly as the track is ten minutes long it takes up 1/5th of the album’s fifty-minute running time.
Yes, it’s inferior to their previous records, but lest we forget that TA’s worst album is still preferable to many bands best. The A+ lyrics and fantastic Titus Andronicus energy are all present, and if anything these songs will translate live better than their previous works.