I’ll start this review by saying I might be a little biased when it comes to Titus Andronicus. At this point I would say I feel something akin to adoration and admiration fused for the unabashedly punk band from Glen Rock, New Jersey. I didn’t always feel this way though and I think it is important for you to understand how I got to the point I’m at with my respect for this band and this album.
I came into my first listen of The Most Lamentable Tragedy (From Here on TMLT) fond of Titus Andronicus, but more interested in a handful of their tracks than any full album. (I highly recommend dipping your toes in the water with a few tracks before you dive in to TMLT) Their style had never really clicked for me, I just didn’t “get it”. In hindsight, I just wasn’t seeing the big picture with this band. And be prepared because TMLT is a sprawling work at nearly 93 minutes long. Despite your predisposition toward this band, if you take a step back and really took in the grandeur of this album I think you’d be hard pressed to not find something appreciable in what I’m sure many will call Titus Andronics’ magnum opus.
The album starts out with “The Angry Hour” which is more interesting conceptually than it is musically, but it helps to set the tone for what follows. The track is something akin to the tuning of concert instruments before a play or opera. Coincidently, TMLT has been described as a “Rock Opera”, by frontman Patrick Stickles and others.
With the stage set, Titus Andronicus dives right in. This album’s first real track is an allusion to or continuation of a series of other tracks by the band (a common trend in +@’s songwriting), but that is not to say that is doesn’t stand on its own. The 5 minute track contains long guitar solos and poignant lyrics. “Stranded (On My Own)” doesn’t use its time as well in my opinion, but I will say that every track on this album is worth listing to in order because of how they contribute to the overarching plot and progression of the album. “Lonely Boy” backs off of the harder punk rock themes and pursues a more Rockabilly sound which makes a lot of sense with the allusion to Elvis in the first line.
“I Lost My Mind” marks the upturn of the album both in terms of plot and musical interest. The use of piano mixed with the pulsating and predictable tune makes it feel like a long forgotten folk rock sing along. I’m going to make an effort here not to dwell on every single track, despite the fact that I could and I’ll say that the album really takes off with high energy and great catch hooks on almost every track except “Mr. E Mann” and “Fired Up” which shine in their own right. I will say that I think the cover of “I Had Lost My Mind” by Daniel Johnson makes the originally lackluster track palatable.
The midsection of this album is very worth noting with the two longest rack split by an intermission. “A More Perfect Union” and “(S)HE SAID / (S)HE SAID” have remarkable depth when paired with the intermission and “Sun Salutation” and the set of songs feels like a tiny symphony with its own introduction and conclusion.
The album is fairly symmetrical with a return to high energy and entirely worthwhile listens in the second act as the band covers “A Pair of Brown Eyes” and “Auld Lang Syne” in between some “Classic” Titus Andronicus. “No Future Part V” and “Stable Boy” do outstanding job resolving the album with their slowed down pace and candid lyrics. In fact, “No Future Part V” might just be the best song on the album for its willingness to be something that I’ve never heard from this band before without seeming like a betrayal of style in any way.
This is a real album, not a collection of songs written around the same time. There are themes, progression, risks, and most of all intensely musical moments. Titus Andronicus isn’t afraid to try something new while paying homage to their roots and influences. It’s a piece of art, or at the very least an attempt at one and in this day and age I think that highly commendable. On top of all that, the album has “A Moral” and who can’t get behind that?