New Music Review: Titus Andronicus Return

titus-andronicusFOR MANY, WATCHING David Cameron’s slow drive to Buckingham Palace to establish a majority government was accompanied by an internal funeral march. Before lunchtime on May 8th, Farage, Miliband and Clegg had all faced the music. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are dancing on their own. How much longer do you think I can stretch this analogy?

In this tumultuous election season, it’s nice to hear that there are still punks out there, fighting for themselves and only themselves, still swinging their fists in the pit like everyone in Fugazi isn’t in their 50’s, that aren’t Russell Brand, or, actually, from the UK at all. This week, New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus (who, let’s be honest, are quick to remind you they’re from New Jersey) announced their fourth full-length and their second named for a line from Shakespeare, The Most Lamentable Tragedy. It follows Local Business, that would’ve had a nuclear explosion on the cover if not for a label intervention. Back then, the 2012 presidential race was in full swing, and Titus fans called out for an album that reflected the anger of contemporary America in its sound after their incredible and raw Civil War-inflected sophomore The Monitor; what they got was disappointing for some.

Now Titus are back, playing five nights at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium and sharing their first track from the new album, “Dimed Out.” It’s a return to the frustration and energy of their debut The Airing of Greivances, itself a Seinfeld reference. If the band is one thing, it’s unashamed. And it seems that frontman Patrick Stickles doesn’t seem to have got the memo about punk being succinct and punchy; The Most Lamentable Tragedy spans three vinyl LPs, twenty-nine songs, and ninety minutes.

“Dimed Out” is the opening salvo, loud as anything, with an oddly fitting feature from violinist Owen Pallett, who you can just about hear over the noise. Pallett’s In Conflict was one of last year’s perfectly orchestrated albums, and his appearance on this track gives it what it needs to sound fresh, in the face of the huge number of guitar bands that seem to have sprung out of the ground fully formed since Titus’ last outing. From “Your life is over” on The Airing of Grievances to “I bow down not to masters, gods, nor managers

The UK general election has made its final, lumbering steps towards the endgame. In the US, it’s just getting started. Will Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders use the triumphant “Dimed Out” in their campaign videos, a nu-Springsteen anthem to catch the youth vote? It seems unlikely. But Stickles is going to keep fighting either way.

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is out July 25th on Merge Records.