45 Songs in [mumble mumble mumble] Days, 2015: #3
"Dimed Out," by Titus Andronicus
Give Pat Stickles credit, man. The man isn't afraid of a stretch goal. Coming off of 2010's The Monitor and 2012's equally shambolic Local Business, the instinct might have been to tamp down some of the rambling pretense that has defined Titus Andronicus' career to date. But be honest; do you really think a post-punk outfit named after Shakespeare's most notoriously horrific and difficult tragedy is going to rein it in?
The Monitor was an hour-plus long double-disc rock opera about romance, moving away from home to go to college, and general dysphoria, built around the rather over the top metaphor of the American Civil War. It was bold, brilliant, and utterly unapologetic for its own hubris. TA tamped it down a little with the 2012 follow up, shaving 15 minutes off of the run time and generally avoiding concept conceits or over-arching metaphors. I guess they were saving up their energies.
The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a double down on black. It's a triple dog dare right back at your face. It is a 90+ minute, three disc set concept piece broken into five "Acts". The conceit this time is Stickle's (manic?) depression and general anxieties. It is a behemoth of an album, and not for the faint of heart to attempt. That said, if you give it a go, you should find something worthwhile somewhere in its gurgling under-belly.
I'm not sure it's possible to release an hour and a half of new material at one go and not have some of it be lacking. Or, at least, not have some of it fail to hit with every audience member, all the time. Lamentable Tragedy is just too big to not have a few moments where even the biggest of fans think "really, Pat?" That said, I have the album firmly entrenched in my #3 slot for the year. Existing fans will love getting lost in the swirling anarchy of Titus being Titus, all over again. New fans..?
Well, maybe start with the lead single from the collection, "Dimed Out." That'll give you a starting point that solidly identifies what Titus does, what their sound generally is, and how you might approach finding a way into the swirling mess that is Pat Stickles' creative process.
I'm comfortable saying this one is not as good as The Monitor. But then again, I have that album as the single most vital and necessary release of the decade. So whatever the opposite of "damning with faint praise" might be, don't let that throw you off of this one. So yeah. Start with "Dimed Out" and go from there.