Finally, we reach the end.
Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
I was initially sort of dreading this album's release. I'm not really big on concept albums, and when it comes to history, I've never really been all that interested in the Civil War. So when I learned that Titus Andronicus were following up 2008's 'The Airing of Grievances' with a sprawling epic of a Civil War themed concept album, I was skeptical. I was also very wrong to be skeptical.
This is not an easy album to love from the start. This is an album lover's album in the age of singles and one track downloads. Compared to a band like, say, the Drums, who's album has all of two songs that clock in at barely over four minutes, 'The Monitor' is 67 minutes long, and it does that in only ten tracks, two of which take up a combined 4:19. So that's eight tracks lasting an average of just under eight minutes long. This album has a lot going against it.
That said, I'm worried about Titus Andronicus. I'm worried about where they go from here. I'm worried that they won't be able to top this. 'The Monitor' is an ambitious album that sets a very high bar for itself, and manages to somehow exceed all expectations. They set out to create an album that tells the loose story of a young man's journey from his small New Jersey town to the bright lights of Boston, and they decided to tell the story using a Civil War motif. It's punctuated with Abe Lincoln and Jefferson Davis speeches, pamphlet and poetry readings. It's really kinda nuts.
But it's also a monumental achievement. It's almost not a collection of separate tracks so much as one long movement. The typical song starts slow, with an almost depressed sounding Patrick Stickles bearing his soul. Before long, they've built up to a raucous, angry, spittle flecked rant proclaiming at various points that "You will always be a loser", "You ain't never been no virgin, kid, you were fucked from the start", and "It's still us against them". This is not an album you will instantly love. You need to spend some time with it. You need to work a little bit to love it. But the payoff is absolutely worth it. It's stuff that really plays incredibly well live.
It begins with a reading from Abe Lincoln's Lyceum address leading into the beat for the song that's my choice for the best track of 2010, 'A More Perfect Union'. The album culminates in the 14 minute long epic 'the Battle of Hampton Roads', named after the two day long Civil War naval battle of ironclad warships, in which the inspiration for the album's title, the USS Monitor, fought the CSS Virginia to a virtual draw. In the song, our beaten protagonist leaves Boston defeated, but determined to remain "...as much of an asshole as [he's] ever been".
Like I said, I don't know how they top it. But I can't wait to see them try. And even if they never tread this ground again, they've left us with masterpiece.
I'm going to post the official video for 'A More Perfect Union', and by all means, watch and get the visual, but they cut the song in half, and the second part is every bit as good as the first. I'd suggest clicking on the second vid to hear the whole thing.
A More Perfect Union, a less than perfect cut of the song.
A More Perfect Union
A Pot in Which to Piss
The Battle of Hampton Roads (all 14+ minutes of it)