Titus Andronicus are a garage band with an above average intelligence. They aren't just guys who listened to way too much My Bloody Valentine and wanted to experiment with feedback. They've proven they're smart.
On their second and newest release The Monitor
, though, it feels like they're over-doing the big concepts. They've taken the shoegaze, post-hardcore, indie rock vibe they had and stretched it out, both style-wise and in average track time.
The majority of the songs off The Monitor
are over 6 minutes. The last track "The Battle Of Hampton Roads" is 14 minutes long. Plus they've added strange bits of prog rock and loads of turn-of-the-century Americana into their sound. Which works, just not in excess. Also, the whole album is about The Civil War or based on it thematically. The Monitor
was a ship commissioned by The United States Navy to fight in The Civil War.
What all that comes down to is an album that's crammed full of way too much, with a serious lack of direction. Also, there are a lot of spoken word parts, which don't really add much to the mix.
But The Monitor
isn't a complete wash. Pieces throughout the album work really well. "A More Perfect Union" is a terrific opener. "A Pot In Which To Piss" is a really strong anthemic rabble-rouser. And even the mammoth 14-minute closer "The Battle Of Hampton Roads" has a really solid 6 or 7 minutes where the epic feeling Titus Andronicus were searching for comes through.
That's really what the main problem is with The Monitor
as a whole. It feels like they were reaching for something truly great and instead fell short...not terribly far off, just short enough so that it doesn't come together like it should. The anthems need to rise higher, the hooks need to pull harder, the guitars need to soar, not just fly, and the auxiliary instrumentation needs to explode, not just rise and fall.
Titus Andronicus needs to cut out all the weird stuff, try a straight forward New Jersey heartland rock album (a la The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, etc.) and see how it goes. The real lesson of The Monitor
is the very important difference between attempting to create a challenging album with a purpose and actually accomplishing it. Better luck next time boys. - Ryan Broderick
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MP3:"Four Score And Seven" - The Monitor
Check out Baeble's concert video of Titus Andronicus live at The Music Hall Of Williamsburg
Titus Andronicus on Myspace