Titus Andronicus: The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Titus Andronicus

The Most Lamentable Tragedy


Jul 28, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Titus Andronicus can never be accused of lacking ambition. They've got a name lifted from a Shakespearean tragedy, wrote a concept album about the Civil War, and interviews with frontman Patrick Stickles regularly include book title references that send rock writers skittering to Wikipedia. Their albums consist of equal parts punk, bar rock, and Springsteen arena singalongs, and somehow they've almost always made it work. So it's not really a surprise that their most recent effort is a two-disc (three-LP) rock opera covering themes of mental illness and meeting one's doppelgänger. For any other band, it might be a stretch, but for Titus Andronicus, it's just another day at the studio.

The narrative on The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a little hard to follow, but snatches of lyrics often suggest the push and pull of manic depression—the desire to never wake up is present in several songs, while the yearning for life in spite of illness hovers over the entire affair. How much of the content is driven by Stickles' own experience with the disease is anyone's guess (he insists it's "a work of fiction" in advance press materials), but the lyrics are as vivid, darkly funny, and spit-take inducing as ever.

The music has gotten a little less sloppy over the years, but the band still retains that exciting sense that they could veer out of control at any time, particularly on rollicking numbers like "(S)HE SAID / (S)HE SAID" and "Look Alive." The album explicitly references previous Titus Andronicus tracks (versions 4 and 5 of Stickles' "No Future" song cycle appear on The Most Lamentable Tragedy and "I'm Going Insane (Finish Him)" covers a Local Business track to great effect). Covers include The Pogues' "A Pair of Brown Eyes," Daniel Johnston's "I Had Lost My Mind," and, um, "Auld Lang Syne," and each adds to the overall tone and focus of the album.

There are a few weak spots (Stickles' voice is much less suited for the closing ballads than the freight-train punk tracks, though the ballads better suit the surprisingly hopeful lyrics), but The Most Lamentable Tragedy is never less than interesting and rarely less than thrilling. If this turns out to be Titus Andronicus' final album, as Stickles has hinted, it's a great way to go out in a blaze of glory. (www.titusandronicus.net)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10


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