Titus Andronicus

The Monitor

Written by: TL on 29/08/2010 19:59:08

A while ago I was surfing the intertubes when I stumbled over a Spin.com article titled "Twenty Best Records Of The First Half of 2010" or some such thing. Naturally I dug in, and naturally I came out with little to show for it, with the majority of the records being very un-rock and hence mostly uninteresting. One thing that did catch my ear though, was "The Monitor", the sophomore LP from New Jersey five-piece Titus Andronicus. A record that was described as using American Civil-war themed music to describe modern relationships. Sounds weird, doesn't it?

Sure enough, there are civil-war references in both the art and the meta-art, what with the album title referring for instance the "USS Monitor", which was the first ironclad warship commisioned by the US Navy and which partook in "The Battle Of Hampton Roads", which is also the title of the album's last song. The music can roughly be described as a raw, rugged and wildly ambitious, drenched in sounds that do indeed make the listener think of times when power came from steam, where photographs were rare and exclusively in black and white. To me personally, The Gaslight Anthem definitely comes into mind, though TA are far less forthcoming and far less compromising. In a way, they sound more like Manchester Orchestra, except their feet rarely come off the gas-pedal, nor the distortion-pedal. Their singer roars with an introverted bitterness that fans of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) will find familiar, and with a rattling ring to the guitars and many an occasional, traditional bell and whistle thrown in, this is halfway a sound you'd imagine accompanying an army marching towards war, halfway one that airs a feeling of discontent with the struggle all together.

There are ten songs on "The Monitor", and when I said they were ambitious, what I really meant was "they are loooong", with only two clocking in under five minutes, and most ranging between seven and eight. Many are opened or closed with spoken word samples, that sound like what a stereotypical charred treasure map would sound like if it had a sound, of which more than a few will stick to the mind with their dramatic proclamations.

As you might imagine, a record such as this is not quite as easy to become friends with as many others. I for one still have trouble putting song titles and actual bits of music together, but, I do know this. I've listened to "The Monitor" many times, and from the first one till now, I've continually felt like it is a work of epic proportions that I would never mind becoming more intimate with. What I think you should take away from my review is that this is a band that sounds like few others, trying to do with this record what pretty much no others have, and pulling it off with a brilliant sense for both production, style and memorability. The sound of Titus Andronicus is, regardless, one for anyone to like, the only question is whether their record is just too God damned 'big' for the audience to swallow.

8

Download: A More Perfect Union, No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future, Four Score And Seven
For The Fans Of: Manchester Orchestra (but faster), The Gaslight Anthem (but intricate), Bright Eyes (but angrier), The Killers (but raw), all of the above (but more epic)
Listen: myspace.com/titusandronicus

Release Date 09.03.2010
XL Recordings / Merok

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