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The Airing of Grievances CD
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EX CD Merok Records, MECD019, 2009, 11 Track
The Airing Of Grievances - the debut album by 'regular New Jersey guys' Titus Andronicus - is on the whole just a little too ordinary. There's a lot of teenage angst here, but as yet they lack the skills necessary to translate their venting into song. They have unarguable potential, but this album far from realises it.
As often with debuts, there are quoted influences. Though the band's optimistic citations of Springsteen and The Pogues clash spectacularly with those you get from hearing the album - a whisper of the Quo here and there, the occasional glimpse of early Oasis and pithy vocals akin to Placebo's Brian Molko.
Highlights are Arms Against Atrophy and Upon Viewing Brugel's Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus where Stickles comes closest to greatness managing to sound uncannily like Jack White. And eponymous track Titus Andronicus - with its acoustic handclaps and catchy hook, ''your life is over'' - is also pretty cool.
But after that hope is repeatedly dashed - the promisingly-titled Joset Of Nazareth's Blues is in fact a smattering of indecipherable screamy vocals over good, albeit wasted, harmonica. No Future never escapes dirgey beginnings - compared to No Future Pt II, it should have been left on the shelf.
Penned in the gap between high school and college, The Airing Of Grievances' song titles are sprinkled with scholarly references. The content is wholly autobiographical - but how relevant will it be outside the pleasantly suburban setting of Glen Rock? This is a backdrop frustratingly close to, yet miles away from, big cool NYC.
The band say they want to be seen as real human beings rather than worshipped as gods of rock. Well at the moment, they're a little too real - read also geeky, bog standard and normal. But if they work at polishing their inner rock star, Titus Andronicus could just be onto something. --Sophie Bruce
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Top customer reviews
This band hailing from Glen Rock New Jersey , given their moniker , have a suitably visceral , aggressive, almost nihilistic approach to music. Trebly guitars that would flay the skin off a saltwater crocodile screech around, drums crack like skulls on kerbstones and singer Sarim Al-Rawl shreds his vocal chords in a manner most uncompromising and committed. There is , according to the sleeve notes, piano and cello in the mix somewhere but I'm beggared if I can hear it. All in all their approach is hugely admirable but is it any good.?Does it get the juices flowing?
I'm pleased to offer a hearty yes to both those self posed questions. The sound may be a touch impenetrable at first but when you bear in mind this is a re-mastered re-release of the album after it first saw the light of day on some tiny U.S. independent label last year you realise how much more incoherent it could have been.
In an age when guitar bands ,with the odd exception, are anodyne peddlers of vacuous indie-lite it's refreshing to hear a band who make a racket without resorting to convoluted fret posturing or trebly bluster. The songs are mostly good enough to escape such allusions .The high velocity title track ,"Arms Against Atrophy " and "My Time Outside The Womb" are especially fine but there is also more to this band than frenetic chords. Both "No Future Part 1" and "No Future" Part 11 The Day After No Future " reveal not only a sly sense of humour but a delectation for shoe gaze style atmospherics.
Final track "Albert Camus" , named after the French philosopher and writer most noted for his ideas on the Absurd and who worked on the theory that everything has its opposite and that happiness is fleeting, is the most punk spittle flecked trash of the lot. Which is apt as these songs about alienation, dissatisfaction, and indifference have an indelible link to the original punk movement not just thematically but in spirit. The lyrics though have an articulacy that comes from more than blue collar dissatisfaction-"we only want what we are not allowed"- and even if the odd song is a bit clunky this debut is already up for most intuitive and thrilling guitar based album of the year.And as far as i am aware no hands were chopped off in it,s making.
`My Time Outside The Womb' is a toe-tapping affair stained with Bright Eyes and a dark heart. `Joset Of Nazareth's Blues' recalls Rilo Kiley but that bit more abrasive. The self-titled `Titus Andronicus' is a bouncy, shambly number which brings Black Lips to mind, their nihilist call to arms rings in the air long after the spinning stops, "Your life is over" the mantra. `No Future, Pt. 1' is a poignant lament to that future-scape just described.
Their control and clarity is commendable, only afterwards seeming to add the shambolic façade. This is a stripped album containing no excess, except perhaps in its members' presumable, personal vice. Neither tragedy, nor comedy, Titus Andronicus are very serious contenders indeed.
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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.
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