("The Airing of Grievances" by Titus Andronicus)
Taking their name from Shakepeare's bloodiest, most violent tragedy, New Jersey's Titus Andronicus could be the American response to Arctic Monkeys. While the two bands sonically have little in common, adulation from the blogosphere and Pitchfork Media have focused white hot attention to their debut album. With a rowdy bar band attitude and sweeping choruses, not to mention the occasional blast of horns, they could be called a punk rock version of Springsteen's E Street Band. Okay, that's sadly inevitable for a New Jersey band, but this time the comparison holds water. Filled with working class ennui and rage, but also with brains to match, not to mention the ability to write catchy indie-punk songs, TA will get you sweaty and drunk just by listening to them.
The album opens with their all-purpose anthem, "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ," a song that starts out soft and hushed but comes alive with a hoarse shout of "F**K You!" What follows throughout the rest of the album is all breakneck speed, go-for-broke rock n' roll excess, the very example of a band with too many ideas let loose in the studio for the first time. It's all a little exausting, but one supposes it was meant to be. To extend the Boss comparison, imagine a show that was all "Born To Run" and "Thunder Road" but no "I'm On Fire." Even the relatively slow "No Future, Part One" leads into the faster tempo of the cheekily-titled "No Future, Part Two: The Day After No Future." They're not stopping to catch a breath, so why should you?
Some random notes: the album's name is taken from an episode of "Seinfeld" (you know, the one about "Festivus"). The album includes brief end-of-song readings from the original Shakespeare play (of course) and a bit from Camus' "The Stranger" (in a song called "Albert Camus"--literature classes in New Jersey are apparentely good). The band's self-titled song is the best thing The Clash never wrote. Singer Patrick Stickles does not, contrary to what many have said, sound like a screaming Conor Oberst--he's closer to an American Joe Strummer. The only real question is: will the band have as long or rich a career as Strummer? I for one can't wait to find out.