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New Music: Titus Andronicus

By Jason Herring, July 30 2015 —

I was eager to dismiss Titus Andronicus’ new album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, after finding out that it’s a rock opera. Rock operas have a reputation of being bulky and pretentious, and it’s arguable that there hasn’t been a truly great one since the late ‘70s.

But on The Most Lamentable Tragedy, the punk band creates an impressive suite that tells a cohesive and compelling narrative. It’s an ambitious piece of work and Titus Andronicus pull it off with only minor flaws.

The album, which contains a staggering 29 songs over 93 minutes, loosely tells the story of a man who encounters a doppleganger identical to him in appearance but opposite in personality.

The narrative succeeds because it manages to tell an interesting story without having bulk that drags down songs. Though tracks on The Most Lamentable Tragedy fit into a larger narrative, each is still enjoyable in its own right. ENT_TitusAndronicus_WEB

The album is bolstered by lead singer Patrick Stickles’ strong vocal performance. His raspy voice gives the album a passionate edge, but his vocals can be frustrating at times. On some of the album’s faster songs, Stickles’ impassioned yelling makes it hard to discern lyrics, which can be irritating when you’re trying to follow the album’s narrative.

It’s not surprising Titus Andronicus are making music with such an involved narrative -— they’re named after one of Shakespeare’s most violent plays and their 2010 album, The Monitor, was about the American Civil War.

Musically, the album is a mixture of Americana, hardcore punk and orchestral flourishes, which makes the record sound like a more badass version of Bruce Springsteen. And tracks like the album’s highlight, “Dimed Out,” are every bit as powerful and anthemic as Springsteen’s classics.

Due to the length of the album, it can take a while for all the pieces of the record to click. But once it does, it becomes clear that The Most Lamentable Tragedy is an intricate and sprawling rock masterpiece well worth exploring.

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