One of the most ambitious artists today? A punk rocker pushing the boundaries of his genre? A poet with a vision as epic as Homer? The heir apparent to the boss himself Bruce Springsteen? What are the words you use to describe Patrick Stickles?
Epic seems to be one of the best adjectives to describe the vision of Stickles and his band, Titus Andronicus. Across four albums, they have covered subject matter from local businesses to male anorexia. Their second album, The Monitor, was a concept album drawing on references to the Civil War, taking its first lines from Lincoln’s Lyceum Address. They attack every album with a sense of purpose and absolute sincerity.
There is no fear of failure in Stickles’ vision, and that is one of the reasons that his fourth album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, succeeds on such a high level. The album is a punk rock opera chronicling the journey of “our hero” throughout five acts. It features some of the best song writing of Stickles’ career and expands the band’s sonic vision, which is saying something, being that the band’s sound has tread new territory with each album. It is a punk album, but it is not afraid to use strings (Dimed Out), saxophone (Lonely Boy), or a multitude of other instruments more associated with other genres. The album ranges from slower, Springsteen- like anthems, to hard and fast punk, in its most traditional vein. The album’s centerpiece is its lead single “Dimed Out,” which proves to be almost a manifesto for Stickles and the band. Over a wall of sharp guitars, percussion, and strings, he roars, “I bow down not masters, gods, or managers/ Cause all the great artists they were amateurs,” after already having threatened to “incite a riot, fire flying all around.” Stickles is on the attack, refusing to compromise. He will not settle, and the music itself frames this perfectly. The album is constantly reaching for greater heights, greater transcendence, like on the cover of the Pogues’s “A Pair of Brown Eyes.” Overall the album is a cohesive vision that takes a huge leap of faith, but reaches the heights of its ambition every step of the way.
By Alex Sniatkowski