Believe it or not, if you were at the Titus Andronicus show at the Tralf Music Hall in 2013, you were among the first people in the world to hear tracks off of the band’s latest effort, The Most Lamentable Tragedy. While two years seems like a stretch from the first announcement of an album and its release date, after hearing it all the way through for the first time, it all makes a bit more sense now. This album is not only the band’s most ambitious release to date, but their most uncompromising, mentally engaging, and liveliest.
The Jersey outfit really outdid themselves on this one, a tough task after some of their past work, crafting a 29 song, 93 minute “rock opera” of sorts, cited by front man Patrick Stickles as having underlying meanings rooted in manic depression and how it has affected him throughout his life. These tracks take a level of mental interpretation that will no doubt have me revisiting this album for a long time. With every listen, I find more and more links and ties to their previous albums, from reoccurring characters to simply reoccurring ideas in song titles. Aspects like this are what keep a 93 minute album fun and worth revisiting, especially if you are a fan of the band’s previous work.
The incredible thing here is that throughout the 93 minutes, stale sounding moments are incredibly hard to come by, as the band brings a wide variety of sounds, ones that familiar yet recycled into something new and fresh. I don’t think that TA has come as close to hitting the nail on the head production wise as they have on this record: too raw sounding to be inaccessible, but polished enough to sound professional, which is a rarity in punk. On The Most Lamentable Tragedy, the varied sounds come in the forms of straight forward punk (“Stranded (On My Own)” and “No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant”), pop punk (“Dimed Out),” slower, classic anthems (“More Perfect Union”), and a everything in between. The longer tracks, mainly “(S)HE SAID / (S)HE SAID,” seem to drag on a little bit times, but it’s nothing that comes as a huge turn off.
A 90 minute rock opera always runs the risk being kind of cheesy, a little pretentious even, but after just one listen, I threw that idea out the window. There are no dips in quality throughout the five “acts” on the record, each with their own special tinge, both musically and relating to the overall theme of the record. It’s not as if the band is trying to be pretentious about it, as they seemingly poke fun at the length of the album. Halfway through the record, TA throws the listener a much needed breather in the form of “[Intermission],” one minute and seventeen second inclusion of silence, along with a track towards the end titled “Into the Void (Filler).” While no song on this album actually feels like filler, which is a real accomplishment on a 93 minute album, its nice to see the band show some cleverness in regards to the record’s daunting length.
Even if I find myself not in the mood to sit an listen to The Most Lamentable Tragedy as a whole, the second act, titled “The Magic Morning,” in particular seems like pure perfection, the epitome of what Titus Andronicus is all about, both mentally and musically. I am afraid to find out how many times I have actually watched the accompanying 15 minute music video, featuring hilarious choreography and some exceptionally engaging mental and visual elements. To top it all off, the tracks contained in this act are some of TA’s most fun sounding material to date, and are a great starting point for someone just getting into the band.
I do fully admit, I have a somewhat hard time seeing The Most Lamentable Tragedy appealing to someone who has no prior knowledge of Titus Andronicus and their antics, compared to someone like myself, who has been a huge fan since their breakout album in 2010, The Monitor. The style of punk that TA puts together is hugely accessible, though, as it is admittedly more poppy sounding than most, and a casual music listener should (ideally) have no problem getting into it. I cannot wait to see how this album holds up to the rest of their catalog with more and more listens.