25
Oct
2012
Titus Andronicus: Local Business
Local Business
Darren
Bottom Line: While still witty, nihilistic, and occasionally energetic, Local Business is still a step down from their two previous releases.

Local Business

Aside from being a Shakespeare play, Titus Andronicus is also a somewhat hard-to-classify punk band from New Jersey. They are usually labeled "punk," "indie" and "lo-fi," though their sound doesn't fit neatly into any of these categories on its own. Their debut album, The Airing of Grievances, definitely fit the lo-fi bill (it sounded like it was recorded in a dingy basement and the lyrics are frequently incomprehensible), and had a bit of a punk sound to it despite the couple of philosophical seven minute long tracks. I'd also like to say that the song "Arms Against Atrophy" is the most listened to song on my iTunes. Follow-up The Monitor was quite a departure - not really lo-fi, it was a concept album about the Civil War interspersed with Abraham Lincoln quotes that turned out to be one of the best albums of 2010.

Now comes Titus Andonicus' third album Local Business, which immediately distances itself from The Monitor by decreasing the fidelity and not being a concept album. It's not The Airing of Greviances either- it's not that lo-fi and is less punk-influenced and energetic. The album as a whole is a lot more straightforward than their previous releases, yet this has the unfortunate effect of causing some tracks to blend together, particularly in the first half of the album which turns into a bit of a medley. Also there are no quotes from Abraham Lincoln, Albert Camus, or the play "Titus Andronicus," which I guess doesn't make it better or worse, but I do miss.

Local Business opens with the relatively energetic "Ecce Homo." I use "relatively" here because it's their most toned down opener to date; it doesn't explode with the band screaming "FUCK YOU!" and there are no crazy guitar solos or patriotic cries. Still, it's a fairly solid track, and it flows right into "Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter," which might be the best song I've heard named after poop. It's as energetic off of anything from The Airing of Grievances, and ends with an oddly well-fitting tacky piano part. Third track "Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape with the Flood of Detritus" is just as energetic, yet sounds fairly similar to the first two tracks, causing the three to blend together a bit. Also I'd like to point out that I keep thinking the song sounds like "Upon Viewing Brueghel's "˜Landscape With the Fall of Icarus," but they just have complicated similar titles.

Local Business then goes into "Food Fight!," one of the albums two short, punchy anthems with only one repeated lyric. If you can't guess, the lyric is "Food Fight!" This continues a trend from The Monitor, which featured two short songs that were more or less the band shouting "The enemy is everywhere!" However, both "Food Fight!" and other short song "Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)" (where "I'm Going Insane" is the only lyric) on Local Business are somewhat out of place bursts of energy that don't really go anywhere. These tracks sandwich song "My Eating Disorder," which is over 8 minutes long and slightly more toned down. The song changes quite the dynamic halfway through, beginning intensely and ending with a slower refrain, yet the song is a little too repetitive musically and lyrically (the lyrics are mostly "my eating disorder is inside of me" and "spit it out") for the length.
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The album then goes into two fairly good tracks, "In A Big City" and "In A Small Body," which aren't as high-strung at the opening medley yet are solid mid-tempo rock songs that show off singer Patrick Stickles' vocal intensity. However, then comes the track "(I Am The) Electric Man," which is a pseudo-Motown song that seems like it was put on for novelty. It's kind of funny the first time you hear it, with Stickles yelling "fellas!" to the backup singers and all, but again the repetitive music and lyrics (that are just "I am the electric man - he is the electric man") make this song old fast and it's probably the most skippable song on the album. Then comes drawn-out closer "I Tried To Quit Smoking," which ambles on for almost 10 minutes. While I do like the bluesy part at the end of the song, harmonicas and all, it definitely pales in comparison to the 14-minute epic "The Battle of Hampton Roads" off of The Monitor. I feels like it's trying to be the climax of the record, yet it never really gets too far off the ground.
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In general, I don't want to think worse of Titus Andronicus for not releasing The Monitor II - The Spanish-American War or something like that. However, their previous releases have shown fans what the band is capable of, which is usually a better gauge than replicating the same styles. Sure there is a lot of common ground with the albums, in particular the lyrics; Patrick Stickles, with his occasionally Conor Oberst-esque voice (more Desparecidos Conor than Bright Eyes Conor to be a hipster douchebag) is known for belting out cynical, sarcastic, and usually witty lines, and Local Business epitomizes this by opening with the line "Okay I think by now we've established that everything is inherently worthless." Still, this makes the overly-repetitive songs seem even more halfhearted. In the end Local Business isn't that bad by itself, as it frequently does show the bursts of energy that fans have come to know and love about the band, yet the more repetitive and underwhelming moments on the album aren't too small or "minor bumps" that can be overlooked.

Grade: B
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