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Album of the Week: Titus Andronicus’ ‘Local Business’

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New Jersey punk rock quintet, Titus Andronicus, led by the energetic bluster of Patrick Stickles, dropped their third album, and perhaps best, album Local Business; this week, the follow-up to to their critically-acclaimed 2010 sophomore album, The Monitor, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, and prompted Rolling Stone to name them one of the top seven new bands of 2010.

This time around, Stickles, one of the most interesting and irreverent songwriters of the past five years, and his talented bandmates, largely abandon the Americana-style history lessons and grandstanding, the carefully crafted, tight knit musical arrangements and the distant-sounding vocal engineering of The Monitor. Local Business is a more visceral, personal and cohesive album that manages to maintain the raw grit and bluster that is at the core of their musical identity. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable LP that demonstrates the band’s genre-bending mastery, ranging from their signature angst-driven punk and anthemic 70s style guitar riffs to emotive, melodic pop (“In A Small Body”) and experimental old-school rhythm and blues (“I Tried to Quit Smoking”) , all the while Stickles vocals are front and center throughout the entire album, supported by the energetic drum work of Eric Harm and the impressive bass playing of Julian Veronesi.

The single, “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus,” which features additional vocals from So So Glos‘ singer Alex Levine, was originally released earlier this year on a split 7″ with their tourmates, Diarrhea Planet.

“Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus” –  Titus Andronicus from Local Business on XL Recordings

On the whole, the band is perfectly in-sync on Local Business, and they sound like they’re having a blast, which makes the album that much more enjoyable to listen to – again and again. While the highlights of Local Business lean towards the east coast punk and indie rock intensity the band has built its brand on, there are also other moments on the album that draw from 70′s music orientations (“I Am Electric”).

One of the things we like about Titus Andronicus is that they do not follow a format or formula, and are not looking to pander to the radio play format of three to four-minute songs; five of the songs on Local Business are over five minutes long and three are over six minutes long. At the same time, there are four songs that clock at under four minutes long, including the one minute and nine seconds sprint of the track, “Food Fight,” which is essentially a blazing instrumental punk rocker (reminiscent of The Ramones) with only two words (the title, “food fight”) that are shouted like they would be in high school cafeteria when the food is about to start flying from all directions. Anyone who’s been in high school knows that once those two words are called out it’s like a general commanding his troops to open fire on the battlefield.

“Food Fight”Titus Andronicus from Local Business on XL Recordings

The eight minute long track, “My Eating Disorder,” is a fragmented raucous romp that repeats the same line, much like “Food Fight,” again and again, but this time it’s “Spit it Out.” But according to Stickles, the food fight IS the eating disorder – an interesting play on words.

Stickles wrote about the recording of Local Business: “The songs on Local Business aim to make explicit the implications of the first two LPs, that the inherent meaninglessness of life in an absurd universe gives the individual power to create their own values and their own morality. Along the way, we witness a devastating automobile wreck, a food fight (that is to say, a battle with an eating disorder), an electrocution, a descent into insanity, and ultimately, a forgiveness of the self for its many faults. Titus Andronicus even finds time to broaden its emotional palette to include moments of pure positivity, brief respites from the usual doom and gloom.”

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The band are clearly able to address despair and trauma with a sense of humor and irony, and demonstrate the ability to remain strangely optimistic at the same time. Titus is definitely no ordinary band. Their earnest commitment to writing and recording songs that are compelling both musically and lyrically is apparent throughout Local Business; it’s a collaborative rock and roll album that feeds off the superior talents of Stickles and band mates.

“Still Life With Hot Deuce And Silver Platter”Titus Andronicus from Local Business on XL Recordings

Titus originally, but unofficially, released the ‘Flood of Detritus’ song as part of a free, 23-track mixtape that frontman Patrick Stickles posted via the band’s Tumblr page. The Titus Andronicus LLC Mixtape, Vol. 1, features cover songs, demos, live tapes and outtakes. The mixtape is a must-have for hard-core Titus fans and includes a number of cover songs of Weezer, Thin Lizzy, Velvet Underground, Television Personalities, and The Replacements. There are also more than a half dozen demos from the recording sessions of The Monitor and A More Perfect Union. The mixtape also includes the band’s first song ever recorded in 2005 – “Arms Against Atrophy.”

Local Business was produced and engineered by Kevin McMahon along with the band at New Paltz, New York’s Marcata Recording back in April and May of 2012. Special guests included serial collaborator and violinist Owen Pallett and long-time Titus session keyboardist Elio DeLuca. On Tuesday night, the band kicked off a 39-city national tour with a show at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. The cross-country tour will wrap up on Dec. 2nd with a performance at Brooklyn‘s Webster Hall.

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