Review Summary: “OK by now I think we’ve established, everything is inherently worthless!”
Named after the first and most violent of Shakespeare’s tragedies, Titus Andronicus’ name isn’t derived from an undisputed success. The play was dismissed as distasteful by many and garnered very little respect; the opposite however is true of Patrick Stickles and company. Their second album ‘The Monitor’ was a triumph of ambition and self confidence, with expansive songs permeating the album one after another without ever feeling contrived or arrogant. Always possessing the tongue in cheek ambivalence of a man who is torn between making a stand and simply saying *** it, it won plaudits aplenty, including from those unconvinced by their debut effort, ‘The Airing of Grievances’. ‘Local Business’ sees Titus Andronicus strip down their sound and deliver it in a more polished package, without ever compromising the traits that made the ‘The Monitor’ so special.
The album kicks off with ‘Ecce Homo’, and instantly reminds us that lyrically at least, Titus Andronicus are they same as they always were. Aside from the solid musicianship on ‘Ecce Homo’ which establishes it as an effective album opener, Patrick Stickles’ unique ability to deliver the most thought-provokingly depressing lyrics and still make the listener smile is what elevates it to brilliant. Opening line; “OK by now I think we’ve established, everything is inherently worthless, and there’s nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose”, is just one of many peppered throughout ‘Local Business’ that demonstrates this.
Where ‘Titus Andronicus Forever’ on ‘The Monitor’ repeatedly cried “the enemy is everywhere!”, ‘My Eating Disorder’ on ‘Local Business’ reminds us that the enemy is inside each and every one of us, and it has the propensity to take control and stay there. Stickles himself suffers from selective eating disorder, and suffers panic attacks when ‘foreign’ foods find their way onto his plate. So much so, that when he exclaims “there was something in my apple sauce but I found it!” it’s with such a profound sense of pride that most of us can never truly relate to it. The eight minute album highlight and centrepiece is the closest the band comes to replicating one of the ‘epics’ found on ‘The Monitor’, and is sure to satiate the thirst of fans who craved every last drop of repetition and progression that they spilled. Featuring blunt, entertaining lyrics and excellent guitar work by Betson and Reich, ‘My Eating Disorder’ never lulls or drags during its sizable duration.
The same standard of guitar work is carried through to next track ‘Titus Andronicus vs The Absurd Universe...’, as the album’s most punk influenced effort sees dual guitar work drive the song forward and complement the frighteningly accurate yells of “I’m going insane” by Stickles. Drummer Eric Harm delivers one of his best performances here too; his frantic work laying the foundation for the stampede of guitars and vocals to run riot. ‘I Am the Electric Man’ is a reflection of the experience of recently electrocuted Stickles, and is an infectious, bluesy stroll guided by a simple yet effective bassline by Julian Veronesi. Final track ‘Tried to Quit Smoking’ is the second that exceeds the seven minute mark, and is effectively comprised of two parts. The first six minutes see Stickles ranting slowly over a relaxed backdrop, before descending into a country and southern rock inspired jam featuring both harmonica and guitar solos. Measured drumming fades in after a brief respite, and the band roars back into life, driving the song home in an effectual climax.
Although ‘Local Business’ sees Titus Andronicus refine their sound, the delivery and lyrics of Patrick Stickles are as wonderfully unpolished as ever; and who would want it any other way.