Your extremely late post for the week of 10/22/2012…

“Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter” by Titus Andronicus

So, Titus Andronicus released their third album, Local Business, on Tuesday.  The studio band has been pared down to five core members, and although some piano and harmonica appear on the album, Local Business aspires to be a somewhat simpler, back-to-the-basics album for Titus.

Overall, this album’s sound is a major shift away from their 2010 record The Monitor, a high-water mark which I feel is pretty close to a masterpiece.  Listening to “Still Life,” the difference is almost immediately apparent; the Neutral Milk Hotel-style lo-fi rhythm guitar fuzz on Titus’ earlier work has been replaced by a much cleaner guitar sound.  The songs on this album, for the most part, however despondent or frustrated their lyrics suggest they should be, tend to sound pretty cheerful, especially when compared to the angry, hole-in-my-heart-but-fuck-it-I’m-not-going-to-wallow-in-misery songs that comprised The Monitor.  That’s not to say they’re bad songs, just that they’re fairly different in character.  (Though a couple of the songs on the record, like my personal favorite, “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus,” actually do inspire some of the same emotional twinges as The Monitor.)  The bottom line is that this album has more of a pop sensibility than previous Titus records, despite the fact that there are two ten-minute epics included.

If I had to identify a couple of albums in my collection which are comparable to Local Business, I would point to 1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope by the Clash and the 2008’s Civil War by the Dillinger Four — and, to a lesser extent, the Rolling Stones’ 1969 classic Let It Bleed.  I’ve read a few reviews of Local Business which refer to Titus frontman Patrick Stickles as a modern-day Joe Strummer, presumably because of Titus’ track record of producing high-minded, lyrically dense punk rock.  But another Clash connection occurs to me as I listen to Local Business:  When Stickles and Titus’ bassist harmonize (which is something new for this album), they do a rather impressive job of approximating the Joe Strummer-Mick Jones vocal harmony.  “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape…” sounds like Thin Lizzy combined with the Clash:  an Irish-sounding twin-guitar part in a song careened through with the energy of the Clash (and the aforementioned vocal harmonies).  I keep mentioning “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape…” and the truth is that I wanted that to be my song of the week, but the superior version on the studio album isn’t on YouTube (although a demo and a couple of live versions are).  “Still Life…” is a pretty good song too, however, with some clever lyrical gymnastics in the classic Titus mold.  The Dillinger Four comparison is more apt for this particular track.

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