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Titus Andronicus - 'The Most Lamentable Tragedy' (Album Review)

Wednesday, 05 August 2015 Written by Huw Baines

There remains an element of novelty to the punk concept album, but it’s one that Titus Andronicus don't entertain. Having already woven together ‘The Monitor’, Civil War allegory turned throat-shredding shoutalong, ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’ represents a hugely ambitious, deadly serious move, but one firmly within the wheelhouse of Patrick Stickles.

A rock opera spread across five acts and 29 songs, the band’s fourth record is nothing if not a hard sell. In Stickles’ hands, though, it feels like a natural progression rather than a grand gesture and balances the immediate, fist-in-air power of its constituent parts with labyrinthine, self-referential thematic clout.

It represents a difficult, inch-by-inch journey out from the bottom and a fictional counterpoint to Stickles’ own experiences of manic depression.

But putting his protagonist, known simply as Our Hero, up against his doppelgänger and spinning the narrative wheels results not in an introspective, indulgent personal project but an exercise in communication. Stickles doesn’t want us to marvel at his achievements, he wants us to get involved with and understand the beats of the journey.

Defined by seasonal changes and the shifting mental state of its central character, the record also draws together strands of Titus Andronicus’ past. The gritty, powerful bark of ‘The Monitor’ is a constant reference point - Lookalike is destined to help scream some lungs out, Dimed Out gives the doppelgänger a moment of true punk rock glory - but some of its best moments look back on the loose, organic rock ‘n’ roll of the unfairly-maligned ‘Local Business’.

Mr E. Mann - a direct link to that album’s Electric Man - is one such success, while Come On Siobhán ditches ‘Born To Run’ for a moment to adopt latter-day Springsteen strings as Our Hero spills his earnest, lovelorn guts. These necessary moments of - relative - levity juxtapose with the chest-crushing anxiety that opens the record, or the misery of Our Hero puzzling through the shedding of his high-risk, high-reward skin, something that once allowed him a shot at moments of happiness.

Given that many hardcore bands might consider 29 songs to be less than half an hour's work, ‘The Most Lamentable Tragedy’ represents an unwieldy beast when placed in its punk context. Its lulls, repurposed covers, moments of discordant wandering and near-silent reflections, though, are pivotal in pulling together the whole. It’s a tiring journey, but one that will quicken your pulse and get synapses flickering. There are times when the whole thing looks set to collapse, just like the character whose story drives it. That it doesn’t is emblematic of the power at its heart.

Titus Andronicus Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu November 05 2015 - LONDON Village Underground
Fri November 06 2015 - BRISTOL Thekla
Sat November 07 2015 - BRIGHTON Bleach
Sun November 08 2015 - OXFORD Bullingdon
Tue November 10 2015 - BIRMINGHAM Hare and Hounds
Wed November 11 2015 - MANCHESTER Manchester Deaf Institute
Thu November 12 2015 - LIVERPOOL Kazimer
Fri November 13 2015 - GLASGOW Stereo
Sat November 14 2015 - LEEDS Headrow House
Mon November 16 2015 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega Social

Click here to compare & buy Titus Andronicus Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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