Titus Andronicus The Monitor(XL) Buy it from Insound
“I'll write my masterpiece some other day”
-Titus Andronicus from Titus Andronicus off The Airing of Grievances, 2008
Two years removed from its breakout nihilistic indie/punk debut, Titus Andronicus returns with The Monitor, an album that inspires feelings of violence, excitement, despair and righteous vengeance, often all within the same song.
Notice the word usage in the first paragraph. Album. This is not some collection of songs, some assembly of singles and catchy tunes to be chopped up and played in whatever order one would like. This is not a hit record made with more bum tracks than good hooks to be passed over and forgotten. This is a statement, an expression that is meant to be consumed as arranged. This is literature, this is film, this is motherfucking art.
Indeed, taking the album as it comes is a large part of what makes it so memorable. The songs within are massive. The shortest two clock in around two minutes, but the rest never stray shorter than five minutes, with the longest clocking in at over 14. Tracks are done in movements, like a classical work, with musical themes that are established, developed, expanded upon and revisited. Anthems will give way to dirges. Pop songs will give way to drunken choruses. One track bleeds into the next until the entire thing moves like a symphony, a story and a point unfolding.
And there is a story. Rather, there is a theme, a reason behind everything, told vaguely and with hints so that it can be followed, but only for those willing to look. Is it an album about the Civil War? Is it about leaving New Jersey for greener pastures? Yes. No. Is it about the folly of life, the division of brothers over superficial reasons, the hypocrisy and contradictions in mankind, cruelty and how one reacts to it, about finding life to be meaningless and carrying on? You'll have to listen.
Does it sound like a chore? It is not. The Monitor fucking rocks. Songs are fuzzy and bloated, but packed to the gills with layers of bristling guitars. Solos and leads fall unexpectedly at every turn, and where there is no music to carry the melody, there are singalongs and battle cries, lyrics delivered with such energy and conviction that lines like “You will always be a loser,” and “It's still us against them and they're winning” are turned on ear from depressing realizations to rally hymns.
Despite its negative nature, the album is alive with energy. There is a current that runs through this album, through stereo wire and headphone chord, that leads right to the heart and speaks to something primal and chaotic in the human form. From the dramatic readings that begin and end the lead track A More Perfect Union, one will want to dance, scream, punch, kiss, burn. It is stirring music, music to rouse the soul.
Taken at face value, this is nothing more than an exceedingly well made, exciting lo-fi art-punk record. The listening experience, however, is one that far few bands strive for anymore. Titus Andronicus have created an album that will grip the listener, carry them along on a tide of spit and blood and youthful aggression, and leave them dazed and exhausted at the end, with no other option but to start the record all over again.
On its first album, Titus Andronicus promised a masterpice
The Monitor makes good on the claim.