I love Titus Andronicus, but it is pretty difficult to get other people to listen to them. When you say a band is really good, people usually ask what they’re like. I recently described Titus Andronicus to a friend as “indie rock that focuses on worthlessness in our absurd universe and punk values”. For some reason, my friend didn’t think it sounded appealing.
Titus’ new album, Local Business, continues on the path made by their previous releases by kicking off their first song with a recap of what they’ve been saying; “I think by now we’ve established everything is inherently worthless”. It’s a sentence that would seem more at home in an essay than as a lyric, but that’s how Stickles treats music. He fits big words and bigger ideas into melodies strong enough to carry them. At times they seem ostentatious and beyond comprehension with a dictionary at hand, but he often pairs these phrases with some gross descriptions of being human to bring it back down to Earth. It’s hard to believe that a line like “Who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat with a life that was so mundane?” comes from the same song as a line like “I’m a dirty bum, but I still wipe my ass”.
Local Business feels a lot more polished than the previous Titus album, and while I love those albums for the raw, chaotic sound they had, this one still has a great sound. Every song has some melody that sounds instantly familiar, to the point where I can’t be sure if they didn’t rework it from some classic tune, like they did a few times on The Monitor. ‘Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter” speeds past with squealing violins and frantic guitars until it crashes in to a Bruce Springsteen funk walk at the end. ‘In a Small Body’ builds up from the pub piano sparseness to a full room of musicians giving everything they have, then back to a soft, sweet swell of notes with Stickles’ gritty voice calling the world “Diarrhea Planet”. A wonderful contrast. The only song on Local Business that I could live without is ‘(I Am The) Electric Man’, inspired by Stickles getting a 200 volt shock to the head. Though that makes it sound cool, the song comes off feeling goofy near the end of such a strong, worthwhile album.
Rejected Obvious Review Title: Local Business should be a worldwide hit.