*** (out of 4)
Titus Andronicus has never shied away from an ambitious concept. The group’s songs about early 20s life in suburban New Jersey have used everything from Dutch painters to the entire drama of the Civil War as reference points for discussing boredom, angst and frustration.
Titus’ latest album “Local Business” is comparatively casual, putting aside the dramatic tone and historic monologues that marked 2010's “The Monitor” in favor of more straightforward thematic presentation. The new record’s opening lines, in fact, explicitly sum up the aimlessness the band has made its repeated talking point: “Okay by now I think we've established/Everything is inherently worthless/And there's nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose.” The minute-long “Food Fight” is the sort of classic, silly punk song that yells its way through its titular theme, while the lengthy “Eating Disorder” takes a similar formula and stretches it out for eight minutes with more seriousness. “(I Am The) Electric Man” could be a David Bowie outtake, playfully exploring its central refrain. The laid-back approach makes the moments of depth stick more, too, as on the fantastic, sprawling relationship apologia “Tried to Quit Smoking.”
“Local Business” was reportedly recorded in a carefree live band setting. While it does feel thrown together, it never feels like a throwaway. Instead it captures the kind of relaxed energy that defined many '80s punk acts and '90s indie bands, a mood that suits the group well. Unlike “The Monitor,” this album isn't trying to be a masterpiece, and it's a much more accessible rock album as a result.
Kyle Kramer is a RedEye special contributor. @redeyechimusic
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