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. They are playing exactly what Stickles has always wanted to hear. But they are not playing a soundtrack to what goes on outside his window, nor are they are playing a soundtrack to combat it. They are simply playing. No agenda, no ego. And for his part, Stickles is screaming along, alone in his tiny apartment but a part of something, and, like a Polaroid in reverse, the window fades away and the chair fades away and the bottle fades away and the walls fade away until there is nothing but these young gentlemen singing and playing long into the night.
This is not solely because of Stickles's lyrics or the general attitude of Titus Andronicus's music. No, mostly I get this image in my head because of the production on The Airing Of Grievances. Stickles simply sounds separate from the rest of the band, as if he is singing along to a recording of the music rather than fronting the band with a guitar of his own. At first, this seemed to make the album disjointed, as if vocalist and band were two entirely separate entities pasted together. But there is a sort of jovial enmity there in the sense that the music is constantly at war with itself, each sound vying for dominance but never quite achieving it, and in that way, working together. And of course there is Stickles - part charismatic frontman, part bearded freak, part motivational speaker, part existential problem in a bottle - in the middle of it all, doing his best to fight the demons outside his window by fighting the demons inside his mind. Through the distorted fuzz he is there with street-performer panache, with preacherman persuasion, spouting introspective insights, searing judgments, and common-man philosophies fitting for these modern times.
Never has there been a band quite like Titus Andronicus; that is, there's never been a band that has shouted an axiom so loudly, adhered to a tenet so mightily as they do to the fact that life is just too fu
cking short for all this bullshi
t. Other bands have shouted this too, of course, but none of them have turned it into a creed as Titus Andronicus have, never has it seemed like such a call to arms to stop being such a waste, and it is also a reassurance that you don't need to make a lot of money to do so, that by getting together with people and simply being
, you've spent a night well. Such conviction, such flesh-and-bones realness is what music should always be. The Airing Of Grievances is not about anything so much as it is for everything - the beauty of life, the tragedy of life wasted, the looming of death and the desire to go out having lived fully - no, it is not about those things at all, it is for
those things, it is a collection of songs written as odes to the gritty and the beautiful and the mixing of the two: our world, our sick world. This album is a constant reminder that you can love your country without being blinded by it, that you can die penniless but absolutely happy, that the political is always personal, and that being a part of the crowd is not a bad thing if you've found something worth following.