Soundcheck: Titus Andronicus – Local Business
By Mykel Vernon-Sembach
Rating: 4 out of 5
Compared to punk of the ‘80s and ‘90s, Titus Andronicus’ Local Business does not bring to mind the aggressive songs of other bands such as the The Dead Milkmen, Bad Brains or Black Flag. Yet, compile their simplistic, somewhat poppy instrumentations with lyrics like, “Okay, I think by now we’ve established / everything is inherently worthless” makes Titus Andronicus just as substantially influential as their punk predecessors.
With two years between the release of their sophomore album, The Monitor, and four years after The Airing of Grievances, it seems Titus Andronicus has come full circle, sounding more like their old, garage-band selves.
They start with “Ecce Homo,” which can — with effort — illustrate lead singer, Patrick Stickles, as the recent pop culture phenomena of the chapel painting of Jesus now marred by the botched restoration of a local amateur artist. Just like the restoration itself, Stickles paints a pretty foul picture of himself for his listening audience.
His self-loathing continues through “Still Live With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter,” which roughly translates to a hot mess of lyrics by the end of the track. Regardless of the lack of sense through the song, it is a well-illustrated view of today’s punk sound.
Life and mortality are addressed in “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood of Detritus,” when the lyrics compare the head-on collision of the individual and life to a suicide jumper’s skull against the highway pavement. Even with the cheery guitar, xylophone and bouncy rhythm, the intensity of “Upon Viewing” echoes to their earlier track titled, “Upon Viewing Brueghel’s ‘Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus’.”
Titus Andronicus reminds its listenership how punk they are with repetitive chant chorus found in “Food Fight,” a minute-and-nine seconds of harmonica, percussion and piano, perfectly emanating images of an elementary school cafeteria with youthful chaos. Their clever immaturity shines when the song is followed with the track “My Eating Disorder.”
The lyrical minimalism carries over to “Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO),” as Stickles screams, “I’m going insane!” through its entirety. Surprisingly, the thought of redundancy or repetitiveness never comes to mind the entire two minutes of the song.
The album’s single, “In A Big City” is quite the anthem of the twenty-something dichotomy; seeking purpose and a sense of self while sifting through a sea of distractions during the age of the in-between.
If “In A Big City” doesn’t bring down the mood, “In A Small Body” will certainly cause listeners to experience short-term depression with lines like, “Don’t tell me I was born free / That joke has been old since high school,” and “I know some kids / who’d kill for this kind of cage,” referencing his career as a musician like some anchor drowning him in the “Big City” sea.
“Tried To Quit Smoking” is the cherry on top of this nihilist sundae. The first eight lines come from the mouths of thousands of sad saps weighed under the pressure of their consumerist society. Despite their cliché, they work incredibly well.
While Local Business is not as conceptually creative like its predecessor, The Monitor, it still carries a universal meaning for all those who suffer emotionally. Despite its vulgarity and immaturity, Local Business hits home to some more so than the film production of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.