Titus Andronicus :: Local Business

No matter what MTV has made the Jersey shore into, for me New Jersey will always be the source of some of my favorite music, and home of that certain Jersey sound, and powerful social messaging, that is near impossible to duplicate. Titus Adronicus has that irreplaceable sound that I love so much, the slightly world weary kick and streetwise push that grabs a hard hold from the first few notes off of their new album, Local Business, and does not let go until the last gasps and beats played, as the album ends.

This is music that needs to be played loud and just itches to be performed live. There is that youthful, post-punk energy that is highly addictive mixed and shaken up with lead vocals that are immediately reminiscent of the late great Joe Strummer, so much so that I cannot help but wish they would throw a Clash cover in for good measure. I am also reminded of The Libertines (before the drugs took over) for both their literary roots from the band’s name (named after the often brutal Shakespearean tragedy), and their philosophical meanderings regarding the “inherent meaninglessness of life in an absurd universe” (Patrick Stickles, lead singer), and the morality, or lack thereof, within.

Oh my how sexy intelligent punk rock is to me.

Overall, Local Business is a juxtaposition of the decry of hopelessness and worthlessness of society holding hands and making out in the backseat with the danceable, power pop punk that exalts joy and hope in tomorrow. We all throw our hands up, scream and shout, curse out our complaints and embrace the possibilities, all in that red hot heat of the immortal youth that is ever at the core of punk rock. This is not hipster fodder, this is music that begs to become legendary, listened to, and learned from. This is music to play while we recognize our shared existence, and the chaos of this world, as we all go down together in that shared conscious hopelessness.

My initial favorite on the album is the opening number, Ecce Homo, and its powerful societal declaration in the starting lines of “Okay I think by now we’ve established everything is inherently worthless, and there’s nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose.” This song is the musical throat clearing, th gearing up for what the entire album seems to act as – a reminder to us all to wake up and take action, not just take notice, of our shared world.

Perhaps reminder is too gentle a word to use, though, as there is truly nothing gentle going down in this album. Instead, I think the album, as a whole, is a musical battle cry sent out to all of us, encouraging us to grab hands, throw up fists, and fight collectively against conformity, social constructs, eating disorders, and all of the other atrocities that make up this modern consumerist society, a message that especially in the heat of a political year, is well worthwhile; this is music to sing-a-long and change our reality to.

My other fast favorite is the closing song, I Tried to Quit Smoking, the self-indulgent, melancholic ode to not regretting leaving somebody behind. Underneath the “I did not care if I hurt you” sentiment, though, is a tragic self-loathing, an acknowledgement that one has become so numbed by the world, so weighted down by sarcasm-infused apathy that love has become an impossible feeling to fathom, much less feel. This is a eulogy to love, to caring, to relationships in a world where we are all inevitably isolated from each other, raising the questions of “is this what we wanted our lives to be? Did we really want to wind up this alone?”

What a way to end an album.

The question of our agency, of the breaking apart the shackles of social constructs, and the ever elusive notion of freedom is continuously tossed around on the album Local Business, lyrically urging us all to consider where we stand, and where we just stand by, as we grow-up in this society. The crying out of “don’t tell me I was born free”, in the song In a Small Body, brings it all to the surface, begging the question to everyone, “who among us is actually free?” This is the stuff that punk rock was meant to be, and is fucking refreshing to hear. I almost want to write that this is an album for English and Philosophy majors, and I like it like that, but I do dare to hope it reaches many others, as well.

Thank you, New Jersey, I have never bought into the MTV hype, and I have always believed in your music, and thank you, Titus Andronicus, for making an album one can think to.

In a Big City (live) :: Titus Andronicus

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