On their fourth album, Brooklyn-by-way-of-New-Jersey indie punks Titus Andronicus offer an allegorical story over the course of one hundred or so minutes. Titled The Most Lamentable Tragedy (and hereafter called TMLT), the 29-song record comes out July 28th through Merge. Anyone unfamiliar with the band might be surprised to hear that a group of so-called punks are releasing a triple LP, featuring two songs that break the nine minute mark no less. I assure you Titus Andronicus are a punk band, and TMLT is a punk album in the vein of The Clash or The Replacements.
That is to say that Titus Andronicus’ music has some of the best guitar riffs out there, but the band also understand when to pull back from eleven, in one sense. This is also a group that has never released an album without at least one seven minute-long song, and TMLT keeps that tradition alive gloriously. The album’s centerpiece is comprised of two songs (“More Perfect Union” and “(S)HE SAID/ (S)HE SAID”) that each break the nine minute mark. That’s hardly a strike against the band, though. From “No Future, Pt. 1” on their debut, The Airing of Grievances, through to TMLT’s “More Perfect Union” and (S)HE SAID/ (S)HE SAID” the band’s longer tracks more than hold their own.
Note well, though, that this is an album that should be listened to as such. TMLT is a story that follows an unnamed narrator through roughly a year of his life in “the big city,” with different songs occurring in different seasons and representing phases of the manic depressive mood cycle. The structure makes TMLT a more challenging record than Titus Andronicus’ previous albums. In addition to being their longest, the album is split into five acts, with each act containing its own suite of songs. Act II, for example, includes two of TMLT’s first three singles and was itself released as a short film titled “The Magic Morning.” The film gives an excellent idea of what to expect from the rest of the album, an introduction (to the new act) followed by anthemic guitar riffs.
Titus Andronicus have been been around for a decade, and in that time they have carved out a magnificent space for themselves. Few bands are able to sing about serious topics without coming across as humorless at best and dull at worst. Titus Andronicus, thanks to the energy they play with and the cleverness of their lyrics, avoid that pitfall. They are one of the best bands recording today.