Ambition, a central theme of Titus Andronicus

So let’s just get it all out there. I’ve been waiting to find the proper way to tell you that since the first incarnation of this site died, I discovered what is most likely the best album since, well, let’s not make any comparisons that will immediately put you off. Let’s just say that I hold Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor in higher regard than most things in life.

I’m not going to fully explain to you why that is true. Mainly because there many who would not agree with me. But I know, deep in my heart, that they are all wrong.

It’s a glorious album. The sort of thing that I’m jealous that someone else did. I have very little musical talent but I can recognize when someone plucks themes and ideas from my brain and does it better than I ever would. So I love Titus Andronicus because they are brain thieves.

Titus Andronicus
Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus. Self portrait. Instagram. 2013.

So why do I love The Monitor? Here’s my theory. Patrick Stickles got really high and watched the first two episodes of Ken Burns’ Civil War and related that to growing up and being a 20’s burnout in New Jersey. Then he wrote a bunch of songs that easily, effortlessly, dare I say gracefully transpose the two things. AND EVERY SINGLE DAMN ONE OF THEM IS FANTASTIC. Every song sounds like an anthem sung by a band that loves the Ramones and Bruce Springsteen. Patrick isn’t the best singer on the planet, but YOU HEAR THE SOUL. Or I do. Anyways, there’s the short version. I could literally bore you to sleep with my deep love for this album. I’m not going to do that.

So for a follow up, we got Local Business. A perfectly serviceable album, some of which I love. The songs I love, as it happens, sound a little like The Monitor. I’m going to drop my favorite here, because it’s pretty much the perfect example of Titus Andronicus For New Listeners. You don’t like this one? Probably best to shove off. Thanks for stopping by.

Still with me?

Local Business came out last year. I knew something was brewing because Patrick was been alluding to #LP4 (the fourth album) on Twitter. By the way, as an aside, following @titusandronicus is almost too much. He puts his every thought out there, and then disappears for weeks at a time. I know way too much about this band. It may have been better if I didn’t.

Let’s file away that thought because the big news out of Titus Andronicus is… weird.

The new album, now available for preorder (with the hashtag #rockopera), will feature 30+ songs and come out next year. Those thirty songs will be a concept album, about… well, here’s what Stickles told the Missoulian:

“Basically we meet a guy, a fella, and he’s a very depressed, sad guy, and he doesn’t have much hope about life,” Stickles said.

The character went through some sort of trauma he doesn’t fully understand that left him less outgoing, less ambitious than he once was.

A “mysterious, shadowy” figure appears, a “doppelgänger of our hero,” who reveals that the main character used to be part of an ancient race of humans.

“This superhuman race has this curse upon it, and the reason that they’re able to do all these great things is the same reason that they ultimately are doomed to destroy themselves. They’re a self-destructive race that’s dispersed amongst the regular population,” he said.

And so the source of all his power is the same thing that put him in the “bad state” at the beginning of the story.

After a love interest enters his life, the hero has to decide whether to reveal his true nature, and whether he wants to live like a regular person.

“So that’s the question, what’s he going to do? Is he going to become a human, or live out his true destiny? The true destiny is more painful, you understand? But it’s got bigger rewards but there are consequences,” Stickles said.

“It’s all a way of questioning, would you want to live your life in the middle … or would you accept the lows because they’re the price of the highs? Mostly it’s a metaphor for manic depression, is the thing,” he said.

If you can’t tell yet, I’m willing to give this and anything else they do next a chance. To me, they’ve earned it. But let me take off my slightly obsessive fan hat for a minute and say WHAT IS HAPPENING?

The plot, he said, is inspired in part by Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy,” and “Touched with Fire,” psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison’s book on how manic depression relates to the artistic temperament.

So. There’s that. We’ll see. There’s definitely a Monitor-ian mix of sources, and you can tell he’s passionate about what they’re doing. I’m beginning to understand that The Monitor just hit me at the right place and the right time- and no matter what crazy shit they do next, they’ll probably never top it in my eyes. That’s ok. You’ll hear more about this from me on this site. It’s this band, more than any other, that reminded me two years

ago of why I love music and the sway it can have over my entire being. Sorry to get too deep there. I’m thinking about cursed aliens right now.

Here’s as good as it ever gets. My favorite song. A statement I make without even a hint of irony.

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One thought on “Ambition, a central theme of Titus Andronicus

  1. from Ecce Homo, Local Business:

    I heard them say the white man created existential angst
    When he ran out of other problems
    Cause the thing about those problems was
    Typically, more money would solve them

    Like

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