Titus Andronicus start slowly on 'The Airing of Grievances.' There is little implication of the noise that will come at the start of 'Fear And Loathing In Mahwah, NJ.' The vocals from Patrick Stickles are the only clue, like an enraged Conor Oberst, far away and over an acoustic guitar. Then, three minutes in, things go a little bit Glasvegas, a little bit Pogues. The most rock 'n' roll of instruments, bagpipes, can be heard pining away under pounding drums and feedbacking guitars, an air of celebration flows out of the speakers. The passion of youth flows. Just to hammer in the Shakespeare connection the track fades out into a distorted speech from the play they take their name from. Just in case we didn't get it, you know.
Underneath the bile and the thick serving of scuzz this is fairly traditional rock. The influence of the Pogues can be felt again on the harmonica led 'Joset of Nazareth's Blues.' The music and the themes on show are as old as them there hills. The line “I was just another book on the shelf” from 'My Time Outside The Womb' is typical. Angry young men, beer fuelled and raging.
It seems appropriate then that these New Jersey boys take their name from Shakespeare's bloodiest, most immature work, a revenge themed play that ends with the line: “If one good Deed in all my life I did, I do repent it from my very Soule."
The literary references show up as typical teenage posturing. Camus features heavily, with 'The Outsider' quoted at the end of the epic shoegaze of 'No Future Part II: The Day After No Future.' Titus then go one step further, naming the album closer named after the old existentialist. These existential themes come through, the impression given of a band unconcerned about any possibility of a brighter day tomorrow.
The production means that the music is always emerging through a feedback haze, and by halfway through a break is needed. 'No Future Part I' provides it, a slow burn desert track that builds up into a brilliant torch song. The Conor Oberst comparisons float up again on 'Arms Against Atrophy', sounding like Desaparecidos reduced to working in a dive bar as a Bruce Springsteen cover act.
'Upon Viewing Bruegel's "Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus"' carries on with the scholarly themes, which at times feel crowbarred in to give the band some highbrow appeal. Which at times it seems they need. The self titled track, if you removed the fuzz, could almost be the Fratellis with its laddy whooped chorus. Unfortunately. Lyrics like “There'll be no more cigarettes, No more having sex, No more drinking til you fall on the floor” really don't help the mental image.
The band are young, and it shows. But coming from older gentleman the music would lose the passion that raises it above what it could have been. Apart from the occasional clunky line, the music generally emerges as triumphant, loud, passionate guitar led indie played by kids who really mean it, man. It emerges as something more than its component parts, whatever the moments of teenage passion that filter through it, like so many biro hearts drawn in an exercise book. 4/5