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Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey: Titus Andronicus

I’d heard whispers about this band of kids from NJ for awhile, and had even checked out a few tunes on Titus’s myspace, but I was still unprepared for their newish album—The Airing of Grievances. It’s charmingly immature and expansive, kind of the opposite of Bon Iver’s focused minimalism.

On Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ (which I’ve experienced myself), they include read quotations from the Shakespeare play (ruined for me in college by a droning professor). How high school is that? And the title is a Seinfeld allusion. But the ragged energy of the whole thing transcends the garage band touches. Patrick Stickles’s breathless vocals and the band’s rough-edged instrumentation (was it all recorded live?) make them a stateside counterpart to recent tourmates Los Campesinos! Kicking my own ass for missing their Ottobar show last month.

Stickles’s lyrics are less narratives than strings of aphorisms and sayings—a punk rock/hardcore conceit. From the self-titled track: “When they cut you up, they’ll tell you that it’s not gonna hurt, but they’re not gonna stop til they see you go to sleep in the dirt.” The pile-on of references to canonical books, plays, paintings, etc. should make me roll my eyes, but the irrepressible grit, fire, and sense of humor of the band make it seem less calculated sophistication than just enthusiasm for all things.

Comparable stuff: Bright Eyes, The Thermals, Los Campesinos!, Springsteen (why not?), your friend’s band in high school.

MP3: Titus Andronicus -- Titus Andronicus

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