Saturday, May 8, 2010

Titus Andronicus’s “The Monitor”

I don’t want to overstate this, but there is something a little self-destructive about Titus Andronicus’s “The Monitor.”

The album is not short of great tracks. It’s not lacking in a voice all it’s own either, as the band lead us into a really beguiling world of working-class lives writ-large. Many of the songs on “The Monitor” move very subtly between contradictions. There is, for example, a lot of clever word-play that smacks of real thinkers behind the scenes. Most of the songs though, seem born of a bleary-eyed state of keg-stands, basement parties, and cigarettes chain-smoked veraciously, so you wonder how they can get their heads straight enough to pull the tracks together.

The answer is that it’s a persona of course (One give-away: No-one can be that obsessed with New Jersey!). But Titus are nurturing their characters all the time and it is a fascinating world that they are propagating: Working-class kids without much hope, but with each other; Americans through and through, appropriating all the right-wing shit, and letting the rest of us have some pride in the country. This surely is why the songs on “The Monitor” are dressed in Lincoln speeches.

Then again, I could be wrong. Like the massive reverb swells that overwhelmed Titus’s first album, “The Airing of Grievances,” “The Monitor” is in many ways obscure – even obscured. The obfuscation often becomes frustrating. The band didn’t need to hide their great tunes behind cloudy effects the first time around, and I would dare to say they don’t need the gimmicks of political rhetoric to block our access to their own statements about living their lives in these times. That’s the self-destructive thing I worry about with this band. Perhaps their stories, which deserve to be told, will be lost in all the confusion.

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