Titus Andronicus
A Productive Cough


2.6
average

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
March 3rd, 2018 | 84 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

Review Summary: a less perfect union

A Productive Cough raises the curtain on some movie-credits piano notes and Patrick Stickles doing his best "ooh, ooh yeah". It's not a fake-out or a joke start, it's the first of many signs of every Titus fan's deepest-held fear. The drunken bardsmiths of sloppy, angry punk have finally gone soft, and the rot goes all the way to the core.

To be fair, there is a universe where this wouldn't be a bad move for Titus Andronicus, and it's not too far removed from our own. If lessons learned from The Most Lamentable Tragedy – the band's best album, even half an hour over its maximum acceptable length – had been applied to the comparatively lean 45 minutes of A Productive Cough, we could have had something special. After all, that album lived and died on its dynamics – the way "Into the Void" and its revolutionist rock sashayed into the piano balladry of "No Future V: In Endless Dreaming", "Dimed Out" riding its roughshod momentum perfectly into the solemn musings of "More Perfect Union", you get the idea. Unfortunately, Titus fixed the album length issue without applying their problem-solving abilities to either their shocking lack of consistency or their starry-eyed worship of better artists, both of which allow a desperately ill-advised nine minute cover of "Like a Rolling Stone" to exist. As it turns out, at a glacially paced seven songs which all drag long past their shelf lives, A Productive Cough feels like Titus Andronicus' longest album despite being the second shortest, and lands as their worst despite its grand and heartfelt ambitions to the contrary.

It becomes obvious as soon as "Real Talk" makes itself known via 80s porno horns and a hip-hop hype man shtick. Essentially, large portions of this album are hilariously misjudged, and while previous albums had enough material to justify skipping to the really good sections, there are so few songs on A Productive Cough that it's easier to just skip to the end of the damn thing. The aforementioned execrable Dylan cover is the clear winner to the bottom, with "Home Alone" and "Real Talk" in a close race to second place; both wring seven-plus-minute runtimes out of a call-and-response vamp on about four lines, Stickles clearly having exhausted all his good rhymes in the first five minutes of the album with the too-showy "Number One (In New York)". Which is a shame, because the moments that forego the fucking immodest modesty it takes to dedicate ten minutes to Dylan hero worship find the band in a genuinely new and interesting place. Stickles wisely gives up the mic for the utterly gorgeous "Crass Tattoo", with Megg Farrell's sincere vocal and a stripped-down instrumental giving us a glimpse into that alternate universe I mentioned before: one where 'Titus Andronicus going soft' means a graceful and elegant cede to a palette of quiet beauty. Nothing else exists in that same dimension, although "Above the Bodega (Local Business)" and "Mass Transit Madness (Goin' Loco')" make the most of their shorter runtimes to inject some energy. The former song is the closest Titus come to exploring the janky pop style they had sent feelers into with "Fatal Flaw" and "Come On, Siobhán", a potential direction far more enticing than the one we got on this album.

For a genre born out of a desire to tear down idols and turn away from blind worship, it's frustrating how modern punk bands refuse to let go of their obsession with the styles and ideologies espoused by artists of the past (even this band's finest song takes a second from its 14 minute lyrical onslaught to remind us how much the band love Bruce Springsteen, in case you'd somehow forgotten). Titus managed to outlive the death of the Springsteen-ified, piano-and-horns punk trend by evolving and transforming, diving into snotty pop, ambient and progressive landscapes with their most ambitious release yet. A Productive Cough should have refined and furthered those musical ambitions, but basically, it didn't – they're right back where they came from in a dying scene, idolising the genre's past and ignoring its future when they could have easily been the writers of it instead.



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user ratings (80)
Chart.
2.5
average

Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 2nd 2018


40579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.6

how does it feel?

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Hendoi
March 2nd 2018


63 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

Not good

hogan900
March 3rd 2018


2784 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Omg pls tell me it’s not this bad :/

Astral Abortis
March 3rd 2018


6736 Comments


" If lessons learned from A Most Lamentable Tragedy – the band's best album, even half an hour over its maximum acceptable length – had been applied to the comparatively lean 45 minutes of A Productive Cough, we could have had something special. It's the push-and-pull that makes that album – "Into the Void" and its revolutionist rock sashaying into the piano balladry of "No Future V: In Endless Dreaming", "Dimed Out" riding its roughshod momentum perfectly into the solemn musings of "More Perfect Union", you get the idea. "

If there's any section of writing I've ever seen that needs a re-write, it's this one. As a person who's never heard either albums, I have literally no clue what any of this means. Some clarification and re-wording could make this a lot more manageable to make sense of.

"the fucking immodest modesty"

And you really could find a less-silly way to word this, too.

"(Even this band's finest song takes a second from its 14 minute lyrical onslaught to remind us how much the band love Bruce Springsteen, in case you'd somehow forgotten)"

Also you gotta remove the period from before this, otherwise the use of parenthesis makes no sense as an add-on.

But other than that, good review xo

zaruyache
March 3rd 2018


19536 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

i keep forgetting to jam this.

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zaruyache
March 3rd 2018


19536 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5 | Sound Off

I don't endorse nor agree with their move away from whatever kinda punk they were and I'm feeling pretty sure Bob Dylan would agree with me.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2018


40579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.6

@Snox ty, I think the first quoted part makes sense given familiarity with the album but criticisms received

clavier
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2018


748 Comments


I love it when you write negative reviews

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2018


40579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.6

well this is a good year then because there's been very little call for positive reviews!

robin
Emeritus
March 3rd 2018


4514 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

shoulda prob just been To Old Friends and New sequenced 7 times in a row

Winesburgohio
Contributing Reviewer
March 3rd 2018


2303 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

it's good to know the men aren't the only band of yore on a downward trajectory

Digging: Felicita - Hej!

Lucid
March 3rd 2018


9988 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

i like the bar graph. no one is pretending this is "good"

Papa Universe
March 3rd 2018


17198 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

yeah, everyone either hates it or tries to convince themselves that the Monitor is still there somewhere

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Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2018


40579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.6

i'd have taken Dimed Out 7 times in a row too but agreed, fuck this

letsgofishing
March 3rd 2018


1090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'll forever be loyal to this band for writing The Monitor, but damn it, this isn't encouraging.

SowingSeason
Moderator
March 3rd 2018


27710 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5 | Sound Off

It's The Most Lamentable Tragedy...newb.

This review is superb, though, and entirely accurate. I wish it wasn't...these guys are capable of leading the scene, as you said in your last sentence. This album just feels so lazy, like they exhausted themselves on TMLT and just didn't want to be bothered to actually think on this one.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 3rd 2018


40579 Comments

Album Rating: 2.6

fuck, got it confused with A More Perfect Union, which I kept writing as A Most Perfect Union anyway



screw these guys with their song titles (good catch sowing ty)

Knott-
Emeritus
March 3rd 2018


10204 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

Wow this is awful. Crass Tattoo was okay I guess

letsgofishing
March 3rd 2018


1090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

If 50 percent of the reason I love Titus Andronicus is Patrick Stickle's quirky boundless nihilism and another 25 percent of the reason I love Titus Andronicus is their ridiculous gang-vocal sing-alongs, does myself and this record stand a chance?

heavenbydjsammy
March 3rd 2018


50 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

the Dylan cover is actually the best song on here



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