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Titus Andronicus
Monitor Meryl Trussler , March 16th, 2010 10:48

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titus andronicus monitor album artworkTitus Andronicus have taken the American Civil War and turned it into a mini-series with the cast of Skins getting crunk behind the credits. In stovepipe hats. I admire that of Americana, that a war album can be so inextricably a drunken party album. Not that American rock tries to inject joy into suffering; more a kind of helpless, fateful and fitful mania. They don't take suffering lying down. So Titus Andronicus howl "you will always be a loser, you will always be a loser," on 'No Future Part Three: Escape from No Future', over the rollicking scuzz, and, air-punchingly, "and that's OKAY," - and somehow all their sorry syllables seem to issue from the mouth of an all-powerful indie-rock Uncle Sam.

It's not a million miles from Bright Eyes. Sometimes it's not even ten feet from Bright Eyes, when they start spitting and accelerating, or flowering over with horns – like Oberst's 'Road to Joy' but with his acoustic guitar split lengthways by their almost hair-metallic axes. The Monitor occupies the rustic half-house between Oberst and, say, The Mae Shi. If the tableau appears incomplete, cut'n'paste Springsteen up in the corner as the sun and trail Neutral Milk Hotel down there in its sorrowful dirt.

On first listen this thing didn't seem to have "levels" to speak of, for all that relentless go-go-GO of the drums, and the only real respite being the interjected Lincoln speeches, or the prerequisite, sentimental build-ups to said go-go-GOing. On second and third listen one realises how flawless that technique can be. You pick your listener up at level one and take 'em up to eleven and by then they're practically a captive audience. Cunning, cloying Titus Andronicus. And you finish on a fourteen minute ode ('The Battle of Hampton Roads') and you stick bagpipes and marching-band snares halfway into my chest till I physically cannot say call you derivative or boring. Okay. You win the battle. We'll see about the war.

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Mar 16, 2010 5:27pm

A shame you sort of skate over one of the most interesting records to be released in years. Lyrically and emotionally there's not really been anything like this in the past 15 years or so, maybe even longer - I certainly don't own any other concept albums about the american civil war written by a punk band framing the pitfalls of modern american youth as not just a battle of good and evil but a battle of 'Self'.

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Mar 16, 2010 9:28pm

In reply to marty:

I would have loved to analyse the lyrical content more deeply but have had a hectic month, in all honesty. I did very much appreciate the lyrics that caught my ear, and agree it's worth spending a lot of time on (if you have it)

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Mar 17, 2010 4:21am

this review sucks really, really bad.

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Mar 17, 2010 9:31am

The review doesnt suck at all, (indeed i always like the quietus writers indisyncratic writing styles) i just think it didn't quite do justice to something i found unusually captivating. I came across this album recently and it really caught my attention; As someone who was a teenager through post punk and remembers the first wave of american indie rock bands, something about this seemed remarkably 'true'. I don't much go in for bands just repeating a sound of nearly 30 years ago, and this band didn't at all, but it seemed that the spirit of the record was something familiar (indepenance, idealism, youth) but said in an intelligent and literate way i just haven't heard since i was young, and some of the punk poets were alive. I hope this record makes some ripples, it really deserves to.

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Mar 17, 2010 11:21pm

I have only heard one track, and i was captured.

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Tim Russell
Apr 8, 2010 7:59am

I've listened to this half a dozen times already and am still only just getting my head around it. To just give it a brief listen and then toss out a 3-paragraph review which bafflingly goes on about Bright Eyes does indeed do this fantastic album a great disservice. Surely The Replacements are a more valid comparison - The Monitor is infused with the spirit of "Bastards of Young".

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James Hinchcliffe
Apr 25, 2010 9:24pm

Frustrating band. The debut had about 5 killer tracks but you got the feeling they were a great band doing a good impression of being a merely decent one. There's only 2 decent songs on this one ('A More Perfect Union' and 'Richard II') - the rest is raucous water-treading with their worst and most childishly emo lyrics yet. People are kidding themselves about this record. Which is a great shame as those 2 tunes again hint at a greatness that still consistently eludes them.

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