Critical Voices: Titus Andronicus, The Monitor

March 4, 2010

Sounding like Bright Eyes after an eight ball of speed, New Jersey’s own Titus Andronicus return on March 9 with its sophomore effort, The Monitor. Continuing the drunken lo-fi raucousness of their first album, 2008’s superb The Airing of Grievances, the new album once again manages to capture the enegry of the band’s frenetic live shows.

The Monitor, a fitting reference to the Union warship in a concept album ostensibly about the Civil War, opens with the sprawling “A More Perfect Union.” After the recitation of an early Abraham Lincoln speech, the guitars and drums kick into a thoroughly modern rock song.

Fans fearful of an album filled with spoken word sections based on speeches from Jefferson Davis and Walt Whitman need not worry—there is enough youthful and drunken imagery to appease any concerns. The album highlight, “Theme from ‘Cheers,’” begins by detailing a night of drinking in a friend’s basement, crescendoing into the epic shout-along line, “Give me a kegger on a Friday night!”

The songs here are more confident and tighter than those on their debut, The Airing of Grievances. Taking a trip up the Garden State Parkway, with a detour through Thunder Road, Titus Andronicus is much more comfortable wearing their influences on their sleeves. On the opening track, for example, lead singer Patrick Stickles sings, “Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to die.” Who doesn’t like a shout-out to the Boss?

On this album, Titus Andronicus fits a bit better into the shoes they want to fill. The effect is impressive—Stickles and company clearly feel much more comfortable pushing themselves to their limits. Half of the album’s ten tracks clock in at over seven minutes, with the closer, “The Battle of Hampton Roads,” coming in at an epic 14 minutes. The Monitor is hefty, but well worth multiple listens.

The original USS Monitor, involved in 1862’s Battle of Hampton Roads, was unable to claim victory over its Confederate foes. 148 years later, Titus Andronicus succeeds in making The Monitor a winner.

Voice’s Choices: “Theme From ‘Cheers,’” “A More Perfect Union,” “The Battle of Hampton Roads”

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