‘Monitor’ draws from punk culture
Punk has remained a unique part of our culture since its birth in the 1970’s. Bands like The Ramones and The Clash have influenced the indie rock culture in a significant way, leading to the formation of the band Titus Andronicus.
Titus Andronicus’ tribute to punk and the way it expresses how the genre has developed over the past 40 years is what truly makes the band great. With the release of its second studio album, The Monitor, the group takes punk and applies it to an era that was far from the seeing the beginning of the genre: The Civil War.
The Monitor refers to the USS Monitor, the U.S. Navy’s first warship and is a diverse combination of Irish jigs, punk rock and Abraham Lincoln quotes. My favorite is in the second track, “Titus Andronicus Forever.”
“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on Earth.”
This quote is more powerfully heard than read. It feels as if this band is more interested in the era than Lincoln himself.
Using sound clips or speeches in music has always caught my attention. For example, “The Books” prefer to use monologues in alignment with its beats, creating a completely fresh style of spoken word in music. The Monitor gives the impression of a strong conceptual album, which can mostly be attributed to Titus Andronicus’ use of said historical speeches.
However, fallacy begins to manifest itself in many ways. Although The Monitor is a fun first read, once listeners begin to pay attention to vocal clarity (or lack thereof), the album falls short of any reasonable musical standard.
Frontman Patrick Stickles delivers a noble performance, releasing supreme amounts of energy with each phrase. His lyrics are meaningful and hold back no emotion. Yet, it’s difficult for me to ignore the simple tuning problems that follow his vocal melodies throughout the album.
Musicians have a responsibility to sing or play in tune, a responsibility that punk typically disregards. It’s a lot to ask the listener to sit through 10 tracks of poor vocal tuning. Plus, it’s inconsistent with the other instruments, which leads to balance problems. Why should the standard for the singer be any different than the guitar? If any other instrument were badly tuned during a recording, that take wouldn’t be used. By that logic, Stickles should be sent back to the studio with a tuner strapped to his face to remind him of the importance of vocal fundamentals.
Apart from the Stickles’ singing, the rest of the members contribute well to the vibe of the album. But even though their parts are flawlessly played, the album feels a tad watered down. Simple progressions, guitar licks and drum patterns lead to weak composition. There, you have the genre’s ultimate downfall: simple noise.
Titus Andronicus barely escapes this stereotype and finds a way to arrange its music with more layers, creating a fuller sound than other punk bands. The group displays its passionate attitude in “No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future,” delivering a powerful chorus that gets the blood flowing.
Though somewhat discouraging, “You will always be a loser” sounds pretty cool when screamed in front of a strong punk sound.