Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances
XL, 2009 (Reissue)
Acquired: Love Garden, New, 2009
I had a change to buy the original Troubleman Unlimited issue at Titus Andronicus' show with Los Campesinos! This February and for some dumbshit reason I didn't. It was actually cheaper than the reissue, and you know what? I went out and bought it the next day when I decided they were one of my favorite new bands. This record is insanely good, and I really didn't see what all the fuss was about when it dropped in 2008. Otherwise it would have appeared high up on my year end list. I think I thought singer Patrick Stickles sounded too much like Conor Oberst. When I returned to it when it was sent to KJHK, I realized the wonderful subtlties of Stickles' drunken warble and that he was one of the best songwriters I'd encountered in such a long time. I think it's his sense of humor, and how he injects it into songs to keep himself from sounding too serious. Like the triumphant final lines of the epic “No Future Part 1,” where he sings “If I could say only one thing with the whole world listening it would be/ “Leave me the fuck alone” or “Welcome to the Terrordome.”
The lyrics sheet is cut up like a play (which I guess makes sense given their namesake is of Shakespeare), and the record is constructed as such. “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ” is a perfect prologue, a defining opening statement which has the band yelling “FUCK YOU” in unison after Stickles has rambled on in the background for a minute and a half. The “guitar assault” as I would refer to it, is another thing that makes Titus Andronicus and extraordinary band. There seems to be little thought going to where ideas are coming from. No one is actively believing they are influenced by so and so, so the influences end up coming from all over the place. There's punk rock in the speed at which chords are being hammered out and there's classic rock in the epic guitar solos which never seem out of place or cheesy, only badass and right fucking on.
I notice that I'm gushing, and really, I might still be in the honeymoon phase for this one. I felt so stupid for overlooking it when it first came out, and I feel like I'm still repenting. I've ended up seeing the band twice in one day at SXSW this year because, well, how often am I going to get to see one of my favorite bands play live? They played pretty much the same set both times and both times it was exactly where I needed to be. In a world where everyone and their sister is in a buzz band, Titus Andronicus are the only ones that seem not to give a fuck at all. Their next record could get trashed in the press but lord knows it would be the record they wanted to put out. The Airing of Grievances could be seen as a fluke forever, but goddamnit if it wouldn't be a mighty fluke. But I should say, any band named after a Shakespeare play that makes an album referencing “Seinfeld,” Public Enemy, and Albert Camus on one record is alright by me!
Don't know why it took me this long to break stuff up into paragraphs. Anyway, here's the video for "Upon Viewing Bruegal's 'Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,'" which initially made me geek out because I'd just learned about that painting in art history class and become quite fond of it shortly before hearing this record: