Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Duh, today’s album is Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor.  Here’s the playlist:
http://grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Titus+Andronicus+the+Monitor/59610283Here’s the Wiki for the Band:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titus_Andronicus_%28band%29and the album:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Monitor_%28album%29

and I just got my orders for the day, so I’ll listen when I can, but certainly don’t wait for me.  You all can moderate yourselves correct?

 

 

Josh:

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor: 3.5 stars (4.25 stars for music, 2.25 stars for vocals, extra .25 for naming your band after an effed up Shakespearean tragedy)

Precon: The only thing I know about this album is that it melts your face off.

Favorite Track: Four Score and Seven
Least Favorite: Titus Andronicus Forever

Rocks pretty hard. After track 2, I thought every song was gonna be full of these punk harmonies. I’m glad that’s not the case.
I’ve never not mentioned how much this guy sounds like Conor Oberst so I have to keep the streak alive. It’s as if he’s doing an impression. Actually, I can’t rule that out. They don’t always sound alike, but at certain points, like when they do the voice trembling thing or with a lot of the phrasing, they are vocal twins. I can’t figure out if this is good or bad. I like some of Conor’s stuff, but he can also be precocious and annoying. I don’t think I want two of him. There’s also the question of whether that type of voice fits the rocking music on this album. If you gave me the instrumental tracks and said the dude from Bright Eyes was laying down vocals for them, I’d be like I don’t know if that’s a good idea. Maybe it’s not fair because I have a prejudice, but I think a different singer would have made the album better.
The last track sucked at first and then got really awesome. And the whole time I was trying to figure out how many of the 14 minutes would be a guy talking on the radio.

Mike:

Preconceived Notions: Paul talks about these guys. A LOT. It’s all good, although I don’t remember being all that into the single I heard on one of the singles days.  The civil warish concept…is unique at least. Let’s see where we can go from that.

After Listening: Not a huge fan of the vocals on this one.  He seems to speak, scream, and generally just remain out of key – there doesn’t seem to be a pattern which makes me wonder if he just can’t flat out sing-rather than it being intentional.  I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it’s a delivery choice – one I disagree with. Musically it’s interesting to hear the passing homage to “American (by which of course I mean Irish)” traditional folk songs and scales.  They do a decent job of incorporating this style, but if I were to critique one part of it, it would be the snare rhythms…they are virtually the same on every song (I get it already you’re mimicking a military march- how about a fill?).  I get the intention of the album’s lyrics (and the aforementioned musical references) to draw parallels between the wreck of the civil war, and modern day suburban angst…I just think these implications are often over dramatic.  It is nice that they include some of the speeches of the day-they often turn out to be the most interesting parts of the songs.   In fact, if it wasn’t for the civil war inspiration, this could be any one of a thousand punk/indie rock records.

Favorite Tracks:  “Four Score and Seven” – More of the songs on this album should’ve been like this.  The instrumentation includes harmonica and piano which helps that anthemy feel.  The singing is nearly competent…and better than most places on the album.  And there are actually discernible song pieces-with a clear song structure. Despite its length it’s engaging….
“Titus Andronicus Forever/….And Ever” – Both are short and sweet, piano riffing, sampled quote, no dirgyness. Appreciated the energy on these, plus it reinforces “the enemy is everywhere” more explicitly than most of the other places on the album.

Least Favorite Tracks:  “No Future Part Three: Escape from the Future”  – lot of droning in faux emotion to start the track.  A disjointed effort that somehow also manages to be repetitive when it does settle into its sections.  Probably would’ve worked as a 2 min piece instead of 5 and change.
“A Pot in Which to Piss” – Most of the songs on this album follow a similar formula to the one employed on “Pot to Piss”, but on this one it sounds like it’s even more generic.  Feels like an album “filler” track to me, there is energy on it, but it dissolves in the breaks, and you don’t really wind up caring if it comes back…by the time you hear the snare roll for the 5th time…you wish it wouldn’t come back at all.

Overall 2.87:  The band gets points for at least having a sort of higher concept aim. But let’s be honest about the execution there isn’t a lot new here aside from that higher level idea.  The music is too often repetitive, the vocals are a combo of whiney and violent that miss more than they hit on the tone (and they actual key), and lyrically while there’s a nice turned phrase here and there I don’t think any of them really sticks with you.   In their rough genre I could see how they’re respected…but they just don’t explore their boundaries as much as their ethos seemed to have promised.

Paul:

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Preconceptions: This is my pick and I absolutely love it.

After Listening: I’ve listened to this album tons of times already, and I absolutely love everything about it. The vocals don’t bother me because they are purposeful and unique to my ears, and musically I find it aggressive, big, bold and rousing, with awesome lyrics. What makes me love this album so much is that the band actually has something to say—and as lead singer Patrick Stickles points out—they “give a shit”, as opposed to so many in his generation who’ve fallen to cynicism and selfishness. In many ways, this album is a big bucket of cold water to the face of shallow indie rock. But while listening today I decided to dive deeper into the “concept” aspect of it.

So, there’s the obvious Civil War theme as an expression of late teens/early 20s frustrations, inner struggles and angst, especially through the lens of the past 10 years or so, and all the shit I mentioned above. But there is also a more specific relationship break-up type narrative going on in the story. My interpretation is that lead singer Stickles—or someone in the band—had a long distance relationship with a girl who lived or went to school in Somerville, MA. They had a long distance relationship as he attended school in his home state of NJ at Ramapo College. There was a period of trouble between the two, perhaps he’s to blame in various ways himself, but she eventually screws him over by cheating, there is a break-up, and the album uses the Civil War theme as an expression of this whole scenario and its aftermath in various ways—the battle between the boy (South) and girl (North), the war with depression and self-loathing, the war with doubters of the band, and I suppose, the general conflicting aspects of being a young person in today’s United States.

In A More Perfect Union the lyrics do suggest that traveling from NJ to Massachusetts will cease. It seems as if the break-up has already occurred or a huge fight has taken place. Either way, our boy is pissed, hurt, liberated and sad all at the same time, hence the explosive nature of the song, and the “rally around the flag” part further suggests that it is this dude who’s been wronged, and sides are being chosen.

In Titus Andronicus Forever, we can see this break-up narrative in the idea that reminders of her are everywhere, hence “the enemy is everywhere, the enemy is everywhere”. Also can be interpreted as women “are everywhere”, because as we will see, there is a very clear battle of the sexes theme here.

In No Future, there is the ensuing heartbreak and depression as our “hero” tries to keep it together, and the clever stuff about anti-depressant drugs as a “robot” that “tells me what to do”, but deep in his mind his un-medicated self fights back to remind him that he’ll “always be a loser”. Again, the “enemy is everywhere”—within and without himself

Richard II comes across as a straight up expression of anger toward whoever this girl who screwed him over is.

A Pot to Piss In is more about another sort of war—the band versus the doubters and the haters. Seems to be the start of a new semester at Ramapo College as well.

Four Score and Seven—now this is the almighty man v. woman battle epic song, and its fu*cking awesome.  “This is a war we can’t win, after ten thousand years its still us against them, and my heroes have always died at the end, so who’s going to account for these sins?”  Biblical creationist stories tell us that God made the Earth and Adam and Eve somewhere between five and ten thousand years ago, and what else can singer Pat Stickles be talking about here but a ten thousand year struggle between the sexes. My heroes have always died in the end—Pat seems to be of the opinion that women always somehow prevail in the end. I see numerous specific jabs at whoever this chick who screwed him over is. He mentions how he’s “Most of all disappointed”, and then there are these gems:

You’d like everyone to believe you’re a star.
And I’ll admit that it’s worked out pretty well so far.
But when they see the kind of person that you really are,
then you won’t be laughing so hard.

And…

Fuck, I’m frustrated, freaking out something fierce
Would you help me? I’m hungry, I suffer and I starve
And I struggle and stammer ’til I’m up to my ears
In miserable quote-unquote art.

So, not only is this girl a back-stabber of some sort, but she is also a self-important artist of some kind. In any case, Four Score and Seven is full of bomb-throwing and man vs. woman angst, and the moral of this particular story is that the odds are against us fellas, but don’t give up the fight—I wasn’t born to die like a dog, I wsa born to die just like a man… I was born to die just like a man!!— It’s still us against them, It’s still us against them!

No matter how you feel about the idea of a battle of the sexes, how can this song not fire you up?

Theme From Cheers—I think this is the perfect song to follow up the angst of Four Score and Seven. It’s all about drinking with your boys and forgetting your troubles for a while—or drowning them in booze, at least. Clearly, Titus Andronicus likes to booze it up. In terms of the Civil War concept, this would be a warriors down time, where you can put the conflict aside for a little while, unwind, talk about good times and perhaps even the future—should you survive the war. In the battle vs. sexes aspect of the story—the song talks about someday surviving in the sense that they’ll marry, have grand kids and turning into “dirty old men” who close down the bar—and it ends with looking back and pondering: And now that I’m older, I look back and say, “What the fuck was it for anyway?

To Old Friends and New: This song seems to be the acceptance part of the grieving process. Seeing both sides of the story clearly, understanding your own role in the demise of a relationship, and even lamenting over what could have been, and ultimately… foregiveness. Here are the most poignant lyrics, which also happen to end the song

If I were there to keep satisfied all of your carnal desires,
then it might be my place to say what is or isn’t forbid.
So how can I hold it against you if you answer the call of the wild?
No matter how brilliant a woman, you’re only a kid.

But if you know that no one is ever going
to suffer for you like I did.
Then it’s alright the way that you live
it’s alright the way that you live.
It’s alright now.

… And Ever: See above review of Titus Andronicus Forever

Battle of Hampton Roads: Here we have a song which is about all the things in our society—the expectations, conditioning, etc—that lead to the type of disaster relationship scenario and ensuing anger, heartbreak, self-loathing, depression that we are bombarded with in this album.

But back to our story. The song isn’t so much about the Battle of Hampton Roads as it is about its aftermath. The break-up is official, perhaps it already was, but this was an attempt at reconciliation. In any case, the “battle” is over and its time to pick up the pieces:

Tonight, two great ships will pull back to their ports
Depleted of everything that shoots flames and reports,
And in the morning the shells will wash upon the shore
And the mighty of Earth will have no other recourse

But to shiver and shake and make shit in their shorts,
Because we have been told that if you’ve been assured
There’s a way to live the values your forefathers gave you,
Prepare to be told, “That shit’s gay, dude.”
I guess that what they say is true.
There is no race more human, no one throws it away like they do.

And…

So when I leave Boston, my tail is between my legs,
After deep cups of patience have been drunk to the dregs,
And now I’m heading west on 84 again,
And I’m as much of an asshole as I’ve ever been.

And then there’s the final stanza of the sing and the album, could there be a sadder ending to this story (or maybe I’m just projecting my own persona shit)?:

But my enemy, it’s your name on my lips as I go to sleep
And I know what little I’ve known of peace
Yes, I’ve done to you what you’ve done to me.
And I’d be nothing without you, my darling, please don’t ever leave.
Please don’t ever leave.

Favorites: Four Score and Seven and The Battle of Hampton Roads
Least: None—every song rules

Overall: 5 stars

Seth:

Preconceptions: I know Paulie Angels hearts this band and I believe we heard a song on a Singles Day. It’s the new punk rock, right?

After Listening: I may have to cut & paste from my John Zorn review. If you can’t say it in 2:32 in a punk song, it doesn’t need to be said.

Favorite Tracks: Let me be clear: by “favorite”, I mean “least awful”. Track 2, Titus Andronicus Forever, because it’s a reasonable length for a punk song. Oh wait, the 2nd &  9th tracks are really one song with two lines of lyrics, lasting an unreasonable 4:19 split into two tracks? Fck this album.
Least Favorite Tracks: All of them. Fck this album

Overall: Are you fking kidding me? A FOURTEEN MINUTE punk rock song? That is SEVEN Ramones tunes, with time for a broken string change. This album is slow, wordy, and pretentious, but what can we expect from a band named after Wm Shakespeare’s worst play? I can’t list everything I hate about this album because it took so much time to listen to. From the intolerably long and boring songs to the dental drill whine of the vocalist, I hate everything about this album. No matter what the band, their label, and their Wikipedia say, TA is not a punk band. They are a combination of Arcade Fire & Polyphonic Spree, using the most annoying aspects of both of them. Fck this Album

Rating: 0.15 Fck this album

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.


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