The biggest criticism of Titus Andronicus' new record Local Business (that I've found) is that it isn't as audacious as the one that came before it. 2010's The Monitor is a true epic; a sprawling, vaulted, poetic punk rock concept album. It tells the story of a boy graduating from college, moving from New Jersey to Boston to be with a girl, and eventually leaving the girl/Boston behind with his tail between his legs, but it does so with a cyclone of civil war imagery; there's a great Satan out there, an enemy you have to strike once you see the whites in his eyes, and a desire to live the values your forefathers gave you. For a lot of people, myself included, The Monitor is a tremendous record because of how far it reaches, and succeeds and to be clear, I spent the spring of 2010 listening to The Monitor on a continuous loop while dealing with a breakup and trying to write an American history thesis. But it's a tricky barometer for judging any record that comes after it.
Local Business, on a first cursory listen, has narrower aims than its predecessor. Gone are the spoken interludes from Abe Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, along with the echoing drones/tones that connected songs together. But I don't find this new album any less emotionally stirring just because it's less consumed with civil war allusions. Patrick Stickles is still one of the most honest songwriters I've ever heard, and there are lyrics in Local Business that leave me completely deflated. Here, rather than the recent college grad struggling with ennui and finding meaning in Ken Burns' civil war documentary, Stickles is now an Indie rock musician with a critically lauded album, but just because he's achieved success in the fickle world of Indie rock, he's still far from contented. Stickles spoke to Pitchfork recently about what he was trying to do with Local Business as opposed to The Monitor
"To be more direct in the lyrics and in what the band really sounds like, instead of trying to dress it up to be something crazy...I wanted to make this record more of a regular rock-band album, rather than a big collective orchestra type thing. I wanted to make it more like some of the classic albums that we've loved throughout the years, where bands were just bands."
Read about the concert after the jump
This past Wednesday night at Neumos, Titus Andronicus opened their set with "In a Big City." In a lot of ways it can be seen as a continuation of the story in The Monitor, only this time this narrator is now a 'successful' Indie rock musician moving to Brooklyn. He admits that "some of his dreams are coming true," but the enemy is still out there, leering over his every move while he's a mere "drop in a deluge of hipsters." The song is one of the better ones Stickles has ever written, and since pretty melodies still don't fall out of the air (he's gotta steal 'em from somewhere) this one heavily borrows from Big Country's "In a Big Country."
Titus played, to my ears, the entire new album save for one song. All the songs from The Monitor commanded rapt attention in the pit, as many of the songs conclude with repeating lyrics that are easy to sing/scream along (examples include "Rally around the flag," "It's still us against them," "Your life is over.") My favorite song of the night was "No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future," probably the finest song ever written about antidepressants, where I got to yell "You will always be a loser" over twenty six times in a large sweaty pile. Other highlights included the sequencing of "To Old Friends and New," a poignant heartbreak song ("But if you know that no one is going to suffer for you like I did/Then it's all right/The way that you live.") that lowered the mood, before segueing into Titus' most lighthearted song, "(I Am the) Electric Man" before directly going into a rousing cover of "Do You Love Me."
Stickles always has really weird and strained stage banter. When he thanked openers Hounds of the Wild Hunt and Ceremony, loud cheers for both bands led him to tell the crowd, "Yes, you are very sensible to feel that." He seemed to get more comfortable onstage as the night went on, such as when he described his excitement over the fog machine, saying it evoked some "Mists of Panderia type shit. Shout out to my World of Warcraft players. What? It's where humanoid pandas live in a world of magic."
Patrick sitting on an amp at the end of the night.