Saturday, 21 March 2009

Titus Andronicus, The Airing of Grievances

[published Feb 2 2009]

Wipe down the wet patch Pitchfork left after their groin-thruster of a review and wrap your ears round The Airing of Grievances. It’s what they call a ‘blogosphere hit’.

Titus Andronicus are some guys from New Jersey who want you to know that they read lots of books and are, like, cultured. This here is their debut, and on first listen it’s a pain in the ass. Every song seems to be struggling under muddy overdubs and crappy distortions that they probably thought sounded like shoegaze. Kevin Shields would laugh these pups out the room. Actually, no, Kevin Shields would just make a noncommittal ‘mmph’ and get on with whatever he was doing before in Shieldsland.

‘Arms Against Atrophy’ has an admittedly fantastic fiddly guitar solo that could’ve come straight from the frets of Albert Hammond Jr., but really if you wanted that kind of stuff there are five separate full-length albums featuring the real thing available in a record shop near you. ‘My Time Outside the Womb’ also treads the fine line between referencing and karaoke, especially with singer Patrick Stickles’ mumble-shrieks and general Strokes-y rhythms.

And weirder: the psychology of Abraham Maslow mentioned in a song titled ‘Upon Viewing Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”’? It should be wrong, kind of works followed up with ‘Titus Andronicus’, a neat slab of ‘White Riot’ riffing that ends right when it should at 3:13. The way Stickles crams in lyrics so they bulge awkwardly off each line is pretty charming too, especially when they go like this: “Life's been a long, sick game of ‘Would You Rather’/ So now I'm going to medical school, as a cadaver.”

By third listen the songs are really laying down roots and the next day I've got that beery chanting glued to my inner ear. TA have clearly done their required reading - but next semester they should consider wearing their influences, musical and literary, further inside their sleeves and let their words take the music somewhere new. And maybe watch some bad movies.

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