The Postmodern Landscape of Titus Andronicus

click to enlarge Image via Facebook (Paper Tiger)
Image via Facebook (Paper Tiger)
Hailing from the drab borough of Glen Rock, New Jersey, Titus Andronicus represents the experimental project of a bipolar genius with a punky penchant for Shakespearean bloodbaths. The band is the brainchild of Patrick Stickles, the group’s bombastic frontman, who first conceptualized his grating ode to discord while living with his parents in their suburban home.

Six years ago, Stickles snarled a promise to produce his own self-destruction in “A More Perfect Union,” the standout track of Titus Andronicus’ second studio album, The Monitor. Against a backdrop of thundering cacophony, his raspy voice wails, “I want to realize I never should have left New Jersey.”

Two albums later, Stickles continues to revel in the “violent, overblown and irreverent” rhetoric that earned his band critical acclaim (see Pitchfork's glowing testimonials). The latest Titus Andronicus release, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, is a rock opera that unfolds in five acts in a span of 90 minutes. In this creative undertaking, we see Stickles keep a steady foot in the realm of the intelligentsia without abandoning the band’s loyalties to indie rock. What emerges is a harrowing voyage into the depths of the Stickles’ unconscious.

A vocal manic depressive, Stickles draws lyrical inspiration from his own mental health struggles, which you can hear in the frantic track, “Stranded (On My Own).” Riled with internal conflict, the character known only as "Our Hero" howls into the nether, “Crazy heart, where have you gone?/ I thought that you and me were really getting along.” It sounds like a desperate attempt to restore his fragmented self in the midst of chaos. 

Today, Stickles presents himself as a shadow of Sisyphus, the self-aggrandizing king damned by the gods to roll his boulder uphill for all of eternity. As he dramatizes an odyssey across a postmodern landscape wrought with twists and turns, the leader of Titus Andronicus seems cursed with forever navigating that paradox of creation and destruction.

Looking back, a certain irony encompasses the hubris of Stickles' intention to regret leaving the Garden State behind in "A More Perfect Union." Marred by the corrosive presence of fame, one thing is clear for the violent spectacle of Titus Andronicus: no roads lead back to Jersey now.

Titus Andronicus arrives to Paper Tiger on Tuesday, September 20. Tickets are available for $15. 
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