Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
Record Label: XL Recordings
Release Date: March 9, 2010
I said in my review for Titus Andronicus' first record The Airing of Grievances that it was going to be hard for the band to live up to their debut when they released their sophomore effort.
I was completely wrong.
The Monitor not only meets the expectations set forth by Titus Andronicus' first outstanding full-length, but it absolutely exceeds them. Many of the reviews I've read for this album immediately mention the Civil War backdrop the album has, and I have just done the same. However, what's more appealing to me than the United States' most intriguing and violent war is how the band chronicles life in suburban New Jersey. It's a life I know all too well. So on the surface, the main attraction of this album is the locality, but even if one were to not know life in Bergen County, the music and lyrics coalesce to become a beautiful exercise in running away.
The album is over an hour long, but it doesn't drag for a second. From the first seven minutes of the opening track "A More Perfect Union" to the fourteen minute sprawling, self-loathing closer "The Battle At Hampton Roads," the lyrics provide glorious exposition. They describe a character who attempts to escape life in New Jersey, only to return to the often shit-upon state in the aforementioned finale. Cuts such as "A Pot in Which To Piss" and "No Future Part III: Escape from No Future" exemplify this, offering up abrasive lines such as "You will always be a loser, man / You'll always be a lose now, and that's okay."
The instrumentation is fantastic, ranging from raging guitars to suppressed horns. The songs "Titus Andronicus Forever" and "...and Ever" have a mid 70's punk/shoegaze vibe to them, and the album is tied together by recordings of various historical figures' speeches. The co-ed duet between vocalist Patrick Stickles and Cassie Ramone of Vivan Girls is chilling and probably my favorite song, second only to the closer. Even by himself, Stickles sings with such emotion, such violence, that it makes his voice almost irresistible.
As a college freshmen from a small town in New Jersey located next to Titus Andronicus' native Glen Rock, the album makes that much more of an impact on me. Being so close, it's impossible to tell if the locality is alienating or if it resonates throughout the country, though I think it's safe to assume that everyone has at one point felt like Titus Andronicus: desperate to get out of their hometown only to realize it's a crucial part to their being. And from this end of the Meritt Parkway, New Jersey has never seemed more enticing than when listening to The Monitor.
"So I'm going back to Jersey/ I do believe they've had enough of me"