Release Date: Jun 21, 2019
Record label: Merge
Titus Andronicus have been a great rock & roll band since they debuted in 2008 with The Airing of Grievances, but that never seemed to be enough for the group's leader, Patrick Stickles. Determined to cram as many influences and stylistic twists onto their roaring attack (and as many literary references into their lyrics) as humanly possible, it seemed like Stickles desperately wanted to prove they were more than a bunch of punks from New Jersey. After the larger-than-average concept album of 2010's The Monitor and the stuffed-to-bursting rock opera of 2015's The Most Lamentable Tragedy, Stickles' ambitions seemed bigger than rock itself, and with 2018's A Productive Cough, he turned away from rock into a boozy brand of folk music with none of his previous bandmates on board.
As of late Titus Andronicus have been conducting genre experiments, and unlike the early critical acclaim that accompanied the heft and scuzz of their concept albums, these newer works have mostly been met with a series of shrugs. An Obelisk, the band's sixth full album release in the past ten years, seems to be the result of combining these experiments with the punk that was always beneath their background. The fans that stuck with them over the years and through the sometimes difficult terrain of last year's A Productive Cough will be delighted with moments on An Obelisk, like the Irish punk feel of that end riff on 'Hey Ma' and the simplicity of Patrick Stickles' snarl on the rip roaring 'Beneath the Boot', which effectively conveys his twitchy state of being in under two minutes.
Patrick Stickles understands that it takes a gimmick to sell music these days, so he's winkingly provided one. To tease their throat-grabbing new album An Obelisk, the band released a meta, 36-minute pilot for a sitcom called "STACKS" that satirizes the modern promotional cycle while simultaneously feeding it, following a barely fictionalized version of Stickles as he endures the indignities of the record industry. After the album's first video flops, his label PR suggests manufacturing a viral dance challenge ("#TitusAndronicusChallenge or something like that?").
Over six studio albums, one thing became clear about Titus Andronicus: those who like them, really like them. You'd have had to in order to get through 2015's 'The Most Lamentable Tragedy', a five-act 'rock opera' that lasted longer than a football match. Even the group's most recent LP, 'A Productive Cough' released last year, was testing in its mellow demeanour.