Music

Titus Andronicus’ latest is overambitious and scattered

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Annie Zaleski

Two and a half stars

Titus Andronicus The Most Lamentable Tragedy

Hardscrabble New Jersey indie-punk band Titus Andronicus, has never lacked for ambition, but the group has outdone itself in that department on new double album/rock opera The Most Lamentable Tragedy. The storyline from songwriter Patrick Stickles focuses on a despondent protagonist dealing with manic depression, and details the fever dreams, emotional desolation and life-sustaining characters he meets as he discovers the unbearable burden of being alive. This chaos is reflected in wildly diverse music that ranges from brief hardcore blasts and ragged bar-band showboating to intentionally silent interludes and delicate, string-laden indie rock.

Listening to all of The Most Lamentable Tragedy, it’s obvious how beneficial an editor could have been. Its genre ping-ponging sounds scattered and unfocused, and the 29-song tracklist could easily be pared in half for more impact. Cutting could have also eliminated such cringeworthy moments as the lo-fi “Stable Boy,” which aims for Neutral Milk Hotel’s rickety transcendence but ends up half-baked instead. Or the sloppy, Stones-y throwdown “Lonely Boy,” which contains the immortal lyrics: “And everywhere you turn there are hundreds of humans/All opening the door saying ‘Hello, Newman!’” Such dreck obscures clever lines like: “I’ve been living without a God/And these Christians don’t know what they’re missing.”

On the roaring “Dimed Out,” Stickles slurs, “I bow down not to masters, gods, nor managers/’Cause all the greatest artists, they were amateurs.” It’s an admirable sentiment, but it overlooks the virtues of having an outside perspective to make art better—and the importance of cohesion when releasing a complicated, expansive album.

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