The Monitor (XL Recording)
Garden State rock sure has come a long way. “Tramps like us, baby we were born to die!” shouts Titus Andronicus’ lead singer and New Jersey native Patrick Stickles, invoking his home state’s favorite rock star, Bruce Springsteen. Sure, the deck was stacked heavily against disenfranchised youth in The Boss’ songs, but apparently now that the darkness has crept in from the edge of town, the youth of today don’t have a deck at all. Whether this is true or not, I can’t say, but Titus Andronicus makes a convincing case with this woozy, nihilistic set of fight songs and self-destructive sprawl that recall Conor Oberst’s best work. “You’ll always be a loser!” Stickles shouts as a call-and-response with his inner voice on “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future.” He name-checks classic rock all over the place, “waiting for the man” at the local pharmaceutical counter, and opening a song by telling a friend, Bob Dylan-style, “You’ve got a lot of nerve.” It’s immature and narcissistic, yet the musicianship is undeniable. On many songs, the musicians find the hook five or six minutes in, like they’ve stumbled upon it on the way home from a bar — but once there, it’s epic and cathartic. If Springsteen listened to punk as a young boy, this is the kind of thing he might have grown up to make.