Published Jun 18, 2019The latest from Titus Andronicus is less of a bold statement from a band very used to making bold statements. This is a band whose catalogue includes a Civil War concept album and a 93-minute rock opera, and whose heart-on-sleeve, emotionally candid approach to punk rock has made them a distinct voice in punk today.
With An Obelisk, the band offer a much more straightforward rock record, free of any adornments. It's over in less than 40 minutes, was recorded in under a week and features plenty of punk energy, but it's also missing the added conceptual depth that's made their best work so compelling.
Like the Hold Steady if they decided to sound more like Fucked Up, Titus Andronicus are the intersection point between sheer punk ambition and reverence for classic rock tradition. The band take equal nods from Bruce Springsteen and the Pogues, and they reinterpreted "Like a Rolling Stone" for last year's A Productive Cough. As well, some of the band's best work (The Monitor, The Most Lamentable Tragedy) has come with pursuing ambitious album concepts, paired with the emotionally cathartic performances of frontman Patrick Stickles.
There's always been a sense of urgency and desperation behind Stickles, and he is a force on this record too, howling his way through tracks like "Just Like Ringing a Bell" and "(I Blame) Society." And yet, this time around, whether it's due to the record's shorter length or focus on unadorned punk bangers, it feels like there's less at stake for Stickles.
This record functions almost as a companion piece to the barroom sing-alongs of A Productive Cough and it shows. It's an in-your-face, no-frills rock record that contrasts with the slower tracks of A Productive Cough, reminding fans that no matter what happens, this band can still rock. For those looking for the vintage punk Titus Andronicus, this record will do just fine, even if it doesn't quite match the high points of their best work. (Merge)