Titus Andronicus – An Obelisk
Titus Andronicus go back to basics on their new album An Obelisk
Titus Andronicus have always seemed to have at their core a near-demented ambition that set them apart from the myriad other bands walking a similar line between punk and heartland rock. They’ve taken in album-length extended metaphors based around the American Civil War and 90 minute, 29 track rock-operas before arriving here at what could ostensibly be seen as their ‘back to basics’ album.
An Obelisk, an examination of punk’s relationship with the self, swaps out the scrappy bombast of last year’s underrated but admittedly patchy A Productive Cough for a straightforward punk sound. It’s an odd move to separate out these two defining aspects of the band that always came together to make their best work, and the result is a uniformity to this album that their strongest work lacks. Ultimately, you're left with ten breakneck punk tunes with near identical guitar tones that become, after a certain point, near indistinguishable. The only tune that stands apart sonically is closer Tumult Around the World which is akin to Cheap Trick if Robin Zander smoked 40 a day and was having real trouble keeping it together.
That being said, Patrick Stickles’ haggard howl is incapable of sounding anything other than totally committed to whatever he is saying in the moment, and the record is at its best when it plays with this. (I Blame) Society and Beneath the Boot both walk a difficult line between sending up punk’s inherent contradictions and indulging in them, but pull it off with their energetic commitment.
An Obelisk is by no means a bad record. Each of its songs are solid if not spectacular, and Stickles’ lyrics are always interesting, but as an album it is let down by a lack of variety. You’re left thinking that there’s probably a single great album to be made out of their last two records.
Listen to: Just Like Ringing a Bell, (I Blame) Society, Beneath the Boot