Any band that names themselves after Shakespeare’s first tragedy is clearly setting the bar high; Titus Andronicus usually delivers. The six piece punk-cum-indie-rock outfit released their latest work this week, a sprawling opus of 29 songs spread across an hour-a-half of music and appropriately titled The Most Lamentable Tragedy. 

TMLT, besides being an incredible amount of work, is also an artistic achievement. In a crowded indie rock scene, Titus Andronicus has managed to stand out from the other punk influenced bands and on their latest they sound more like The Hold Steady than Neutral Milk Hotel. The album is pieced together under the vague premise of a concept album about “an unnamed protagonist in an unnamed place and time” and while you could probably piece together the narrative if you really tried, it isn’t necessary to enjoy the songs on their own. Titus Andronicus is one the few bands that is able to pull off the truly dynamic changes of complete punk bombast to indie melodies in the course of one song – on “Dimed” the vocals recall an early punk wailing but it’s all done over a surprisingly catchy guitar hook that is never obscured by the torrent of noise. They follow it with the Asian influenced, almost dirge-esque and slow building “More Perfect Union” because that’s what they wanted to do.

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That is the thing that stands out most about the album — TMLT  is the band’s fourth full length album but it is this album where they most fully explore their sound and made whatever came out fit together into a double album. “Sun Salutation” is a 55 second chorale piece praising the ancient Egyptian god of the sun with lyrics “Glory To Ra/ Glory to Ra/In the highest” but it’s followed by an arena rock scale guitar riff opening the nine minute track “(S)He Said / (S)He Said” that is pure distortion and propulsive drums.

The genre of folk punk is, in and of itself, contradictory — how can you play songs about your angry, confused life while playing a beautiful acoustic guitar? With TMLT,  Titus Andronicus takes the tropes of both genres — anger, high levels of distortion and gain from the punks, melody lines and an aesthetically pleasing ear from the indie folk rockers – and subverts them together into a sonic hodgepodge that shouldn’t work at all but somehow does.

Get The Most Lamentable Tragedy here:

 

 

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