Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Titus Andronicus

The Most Lamentable Tragedy (2015)


The Most Lamentable Tragedy, a concept album that's more than 90 minutes long, is Titus Andronicus' most ambitious and challenging album, which is saying something for a band that produced The Monitor. But at this point with TItus, you're either in or out when it comes to Patrick Stickle's existential depression and rock n' roll ecstasy. This isn't a band that you're lukewarm on; they fulfill the "our band could be your life" maxim of Michael Azerrad's famous 80s college rock book and "History Lesson Part 1" with gusto and a charged up power, "the font of madness and misery" as Stickles yelps on "Funny Feeling". This is an album of passion, resolve, and genuine despair counteracted by the sheer exhilaration of the songs, the urgency with which they're played and with which Stickles yowls, hollers, and finds his barbaric yawp (this is the kind of band where you have to reference Whitman in a review, damn it).

And it's purposefully a refutation musically of Local Business, an album that was just fine but felt too simplified for a punk band that couldn't be a bar band by their very nature. Like The Airing of Grievances and The Monitor then, Tragedy has more multi-part songs, the continuation of "No Future" in Part IV/V, and a strong if thin concept album in it's manic depressive hero who struggles with his condition and a mysterious Doppelganger a la The Double: "I went to bed one night and he took my place/He don't act like me but we look alike". Despite the solitary nature of the lyrics though, the album is elevated so much by feeling like a full band effort, from the big drunk sing-along vocals on "Auld Lang Syne" and "Fatal Flaw" (my favorite song on the album, a glorious pub-rock basher) to the fantastic playing here. From Owen Pallett on viola to the soaring, Thin Lizzy/arena rock guitar of Stickles, Jonah Maurer, and Adam Reich, the whole band is on display in all their glory. Stickles may be driving the projects but the musicians here are clearly some of the best in indie and punk.

But this is also a step up from The Monitor musically - the sound ranges from the classic Springsteen punk Titus has been writing for years to a straight up pop punk love song (the endlessly playable "Come on SIobhan") and into weirder territory. The opening and closing songs are ambient pieces of near silence a la John Cage (suggesting the Hero's sleep or peace?) while the climactic 'Stable Boy' is an unhinged, bleak portrait of mental imprisonment set only to Stickle's voice and a harmonium. I'd argue it's a huge breakthrough for Stickles where "More Perfect Union" is ambitious but is one of the few songs that falls flat in it's ponderousness. Three songs are also covers of Daniel Johnston, "Auld Lang Syne" and a fast-loud "Pair of Brown Eyes", a first for the band that works perfectly. One song is literally an "Intermission" and it still works strangely well.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy isn't perfect or even easy to get through but it's an often brilliant album that is confessional, gripping, and often really, really fun. It hop skips between ideas and genres but most of all it's breathless, pointed punk rock n' roll that was written because it needed to be heard. For awhile now, Titus Andronicus was one of the most important indie bands in the country, but this album firmly stakes their claim as one of the most important rock bands.