Release Date: May 13, 2008
Record label: Troubleman Unlimited
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Punk
Review Summary: What I learned from Titus Andronicus:I have a very specific picture in my head of Patrick Stickles, one that is reinforced every single time I listen to The Airing Of Grievances: he is in an apartment that is dull and empty save for the chair he is sitting in and an almost empty bottle at his feet. There is one single window through which he can see every injustice and lie and slight in this world. More important than that, though, is what you cannot see in this picture: the people in the neighboring apartment are playing music.
Not since the Replacements raised a pint glass in the name of punk has a gang of hood rats so rousingly resurrected the legend of the American bar band. With thrash-and-burn riffs, shout-along rants, E Street Band-style blue-collar blues, and tin-can acoustics, these Jersey boys’ debut album The Airing of Grievances burns all the way down from its big mouth to its black liver. And singer Patrick Stickles’ message is both simple and wrenching: ”We only want what we are not allowed.” Here’s hoping that this young band sticks around long enough to get it.
If Titus Andronicus had their way, Bittergate would have never occurred. Of course working-class voters are bitter and disgusted with life; who in their right mind wouldn’t be? But what separates The Airing of Grievances from run-of-the-mill emo nihilism -- or any other album we’ve heard in years -- is the intellectual and musical chops to support the depression. Between quoting from their namesake and referencing Camus, the Gospel, Breugel, and slew of other sources that probably went over my head, this is a band that’s smart enough to realize how much can be accomplished by not caring (apathy in rock is as old as Iggy Pop).
Maybe it’s unwarranted prejudice, but from a band named after an early Shakespearean tragedy I expect the following: pomposity, pretension, overwrought falsetto, guitar solos, delusions of grandeur, contorted time changes, and long songs. Arguably, Titus Andronicus give us only the latter, though even that assessment depends on how much time you’ve spent in the company of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. Instead, The Airing of Grievances is the neatly cued middle-ground between aggression and emotion, punk spirit and intellectualism, lingering youth and burgeoning maturity.
This debut from the New Jersey punks could have the same impact on the indie scene as Arcade Fire's first album. With a shout of "Fuck you!", it crash-lands in your living room; songs teetering on the edge of chaos are saved by beautiful countermelodies that seem to be tumbling out. An unholy collision of the Pogues, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, the Jesus and Mary Chain and even lost Leeds shouters the Three Johns, they are loud, proud and unstoppable.
"Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ" opens Titus Andronicus' debut LP with all the force of Hunter S. Thompson, its buried verse exploding with a "fuck you" that unleashes a raucous punk screed. Powered by hyperliterate allusions (John Donne, Cormac McCarthy) as much as by a Pogues-like stomp, the Jersey quintet courses a wild abandon feeding the bloodlust of its Shakespearean namesake.