A review by Jon Warhol
Online reviewers have been praising and glorifying the hell out of The Most Lamentable Tragedy as if it’s some grand philosophical statement that’s going to bring peace to mankind. They’re all wrong. Dissenting opinions should always be welcoming punk, so here’s mine.
Before calling me a hater, let’s get one thing straight: Titus Andronicus is one of my favorite bands and there are some really great parts to their 4th album: The Most Lamentable Tragedy (TMLT). However, TMLT is a 29-track 93-minute rock opera in 5 acts that suffers from some little problems which add up to one big problem: it’s just too much. The length, the number of tracks, the concept, the production, the weird parts, the loud parts, the silent parts. It’s just too damn much. Some tracks kick ass, but as a whole it falls flat.
Length: Too long. I own the album on CD and it spans 2 discs. I could dramatically improve it by halving the track list so it’ll fit onto just one. Disc 1 is mostly A-OK, but on disc 2 do we need the Gregorian chant praising Egyptian sun-god Ra? Or the choral version of “Auld Lang Syne”? Or the track called “7 Seconds” that’s just 7 seconds of silence? Or the closing track “A Moral”, an anti-climactic short drone? You get the point.
Lyrics and Vocals: References to classic literature and pop culture and a complicated story about a manic-depressive who meets his doppelgänger, goes through dream sequences and has an existential crisis…or something like that. It’s really hard to get the story simply from listening to the music. This is because most of the album is sung in a scream that’s exhausting, hard to interpret, and just a little too soft in the mix.
I totally get that this is punk rock and it’s supposed to be loud, emotional, confrontational, angsty, blah blah. It certainly achieves all those feelings. But if the lyrics are important and tell such a complicated story, why were they sung and recorded in a way that makes them hard to hear?
Part of me also feels that a 93 minute 5 act opera about one’s personal problems is a little self obsessed à la Roger Waters or Pete Townshend. But hey, I’m not the one with manic depression and it works for Patrick, so to each their own.
Production: Again, I understand punk is supposed to have an in-your-face quality, but listening through the whole thing feels like it was recorded and mixed quickly in one small room. There’s often so much guitar, bass and drums that most of the lyrical content and story gets lost in muddiness. Combined with TMLT’s length, the production and instrumentation really begins to sound the same after a while. You’ll get weary of riff after riff and more guitar and more guitar that by the time disc 2 rolls around, you’ll find yourself skipping tracks.
Things I liked: The band’s performance on TMLT is top-notch. Tight rhythms, powerful chord riffs and melodic guitar solos make parts of TMLT stand out as some of Titus’ strongest playing. There are times when the lo-fi, fast and angry production works well. Tracks 9 – 12 “I Lost My Mind (DJ)”, “Mr. E. Mann”, “Fired Up” and “Dimed Out” are the best on the whole album and would be an awesome EP if released on their own. While the album’s length and production made me miss some of the overall story, I respect that the band tried something bold and new. Titus Andronicus made a true artistic statement with TMLT. Whether or not this statement is realized will vary from listener to listener.
Get it! If you’re already a Titus Andronicus fan and like lengthy rock operas.
Don’t get it! If you’re not already fan. Start with their second album The Monitor. Or, watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKdWBpXlc6E from Titus’ YouTube channel. It’s the best 15 minutes from the whole album.