Titus Andronicus: An Obelisk (Merge) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, November 30th, 2023  

Titus Andronicus

An Obelisk


Jul 30, 2019 Titus Andronicus Bookmark and Share

An Obelisk is sincere Titus Andronicus, all the way through. The paean punk specialists leave nothing untouched, ringing the inspiration bell with floored rock ‘n’ roll and smart stories. I once witnessed infamous frontman, Patrick Stickles, halt a beer-soaked club show to thank his father (watching from the rafters) for believing in him despite trying to make a living in a punk band. Six studio albums in, Titus Andronicus is functioning very well, and it ain’t no surprise. An Obelisk is different (and half as long) than go-to The Monitor, but the new batch of songs have the same torch-raising effect on the senses.

Titling Merge’s 676th release An Obeliskdefinition for a stone pillar that usually has a rectangular or square cross section and pyramid top; a monumental landmarkpresents some metaphors. First, Titus Andronicus is its own shrine in rock history. The rotating band is from Glen Rock, New Jersey, which is across the Hudson River from Yonkers, New York, and about an hour drive from High Point State Park, the home of High Point Monument (an obelisk) on Lake Marcia. Stickles and company (Liam Betson, R.J. Gordon, Chris Wilson) have built Titus’ credit as high as recognizable obelisks: Washington Monument, Bunker Hill Monument, Bennington Battle Monument, McKinley Memorial, and Conolly’s Folly. Second, the way an obelisk narrows as it reaches skyward reminds Stickles of the way “our system seems to consolidate power onto a smaller and smaller base over time.” Stickles is not the narrator of An Obelisk, but the author lives within an insane system, trying to not pull their identity off a shelf, regardless of being blinded by unreliability and fear.

Authority is on the inside; true punks must observe the price of freedom in a universe that is devoid of higher meaning, says Stickles. But An Obelisk has plenty of meaning, careening with 38 minutes of purpose, reflecting a panorama of Titus Andronicus’ overall bravery. Produced by Stickles’ role model, Bob Mould, who recently released a fine album himself (Sunshine Rock), and engineered by Beau Sorenson (Death Cab for Cutie, Superchunk, Sparklehorse), An Obelisk is an excellent loyalty project. On top of all of the above, the album was recorded at Electrical Audio (Steve Albini’s hut), which seems to be a right of rock passage at this pointevery band has to do it at least once.

An Obelisk is thick. A hazy glaze hangs over the recording, but the separation probably could not have turned out any better. A violin line runs through opener “Just Like Ringing a Bell” as the song crashes out at 3:08, but gets right back up. “Troubleman Unlimited” is the narrator steeped in trouble (“you try to rob me but I ain’t got nothing, man”), featuring Stickles’ recognizable sneer-sing, cowbellthe check box is marked by a Titus guitar solo. Whether it’s Betson or Stickles soloing across the album, it’s too goodthe strings are stained with coffee and cigarette smoke. This is 40-yard-dash rock (”(I Blame) Society”). Quick, buy tickets to the next show.

An Obelisk is fast, rugged fun. Blues dirge for your rocking chair (“My Body and Me”), vocal harmonies (“The Lion Inside”), and almost funk (“Within the Gravitation”). Titus Andronicus is diligently steady, a band to headline a revolution (www.titusandronicus.net)

Author rating: 8.5/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10


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