The Mon­i­tor (XL Record­ing)

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos - — Robert Ben­ziker

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.

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