Saturday, October 9, 2010

THE MONITOR - Titus Andronicus (2010)

There's a time in one's life, usually in one's early twenties, where the joys of the untethered freedoms of young adulthood...the endless nights out, the hot but meaningless hook-ups, the hanging with the same kids you've know since you were five...start to fade, and one yearns for more....for a meaningful career, a true romantic partner, a family, to take the full force of all our perceived talents and beliefs and apply them in such a way so as to have a real impact on the short, for our real lives, the one we've imagined for ourselves for years, to begin.

And then we wait...and we wait...and we wait...heading back out to that same bar night after night, with those same childhood pals, still getting way too drunk and still hooking up with another random guy or gal we know we won't share a minute with past tomorrow...and that yearning for that adult life yet to come grows and grows and grows and grows until we want it so bad and come to hate ourselves so much that we're sure if it doesn't all start happening by 6:57 a.m. tomorrow we'll surely explode.

Of such emotional dynamite is Titus Andronicus's The Monitor made.

Combining Born to Run's epic escapist yearnings with Meatloaf-styled theatrics and some of the most comically over-the-top expressions of post-adolescent impotence since Green Day's Dookie, then throwing in a parallel Civil War narrative angle for good measure, The Monitor is one fervent, shambling, ridiculously ambitious mess, a Springsteeny romp on growing up young and bored in New Jersey...and fighting the Civil War.

It's one of the most passionate expressions of youthful dissatisfaction I've heard in quite some time, and one of the best albums of 2010.

That's not to say this album doesn't have it's flaws. This is not yet a fully accomplished band. Some of the songs many instrumental breaks get by on energy alone, so unremarkable is the musicality, and to say that at times this album is melodically challenged is an understatement. Many members of the band, including lead singer Patrick Stickles, have a deep background in theater, and one often feels that the lyrics to the album's ten songs have been designed to be acted rather than sung. But on the flip side, Stickles is a fantastic lyricist, full of bite and vinegar, and a master of the rousing, song-ending catchphrase (The enemy is everywhere!, You will a loser!, etc.)...a technique he employs on at least half these tracks to wonderful crowd-pleasing effect.

It all comes to a head on 14-minute album closer The Battle of Hampton Roads, a hysterical declaration of frustration and self-hatred so comically vitriolic it really has to be heard to be believed.

And what the hell does all the Civil War stuff mean? Who can say for sure, but this is my guess.

The Revolutionary War and World War II aside, no conflict in American History was more momentous or more clearly fought over core ideals than the Civil War. It was a war so steeped in principles that truly matter it split families in two. And late one night in this epic American struggle, the first two iron-plated ships ever, the Monitor and the Merrimeck, met in the Atlantic far from the key locales of conflict and beat the living shit out of each other in a ferocious battle to a draw that in the end...meant absolutely nothing.

Such is how the members of Titus Andronicus see their new to the game, more ready for battle than any before and eager to jump into the fray, but instead wasting their youth and talents in meaningless endeavors and conflicts while the fate of the world gets decided all around them.

But the best thing about this album... as good as it is, with so many flaws, you know this band has a better one in them. Despite the Born to Run comparisons, from a growth perspective I think this is Titus Andronicus's E Street Shuffle...their Born to Run is yet to come.

Status: Strong Recommend.

Cherry Pickers Best Bets: Titus Andronicus Forever, No Future Part Three:Escape From No Future, A Pot In Which To Piss, The Battle of Hampton Roads.

Component Breakdown:
4. Richard II - 7
Intangibles - Very High

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