Before I’d ever even heard Titus Andronicus, I tended to think I would like them. For one, the band name, taken from Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, is badass. Another thing, from what I’d read in magazines and online it sounded like this band sounded like Conor Oberst singing for The Hold Steady. That really excited me. And as I familiarize myself with their second album, I do agree Patrick Stickles sings like Conor Oberst (but more pissed off…which is great), but they don’t quite have the anthemic bar-rock slickness of The Hold Steady down yet…which is fine, Titus Andronicus probably aren’t hanging out at the same bars as Craig Finn and the rest of his boys. While The Hold Steady would be up on the bar pouring shots and talking Tennyson, Titus Andronicus would be in the back booths, gathering the angry, drunken guys who’d been turned down by the pretty girls, and getting them fired up to crank the Sex Pistols and throw rocks at cars in the parking lot. Yes, both bands are well-intentioned and incredibly rock n’ roll, but they are different.
Now that I’ve ranted about one of my favorite bands for far too long, let me get back to The Monitor. It is a Civil War inspired album that sounds like it has been created by a bunch of angry, drunken soldiers. From the opening song, “A More Perfect Union” with its cleverly tweaked Springsteen lyric (listen closely to hear it) till the ending, “The Battle of Hampton Roads” the intensity, distortion and angsty lyrics flow like one long glimpse of the battlefield. The opening track and “Richard II” are probably my favorite songs right now, but the album is so cohesive that it’s tough to pick out strong and weak points. On this their second album, Titus Andronicus avoid the sophomore slump and build on their angry, anthemic strengths and expand their sound for the better.