Two years after its epic, Civil War-inspired album “The Monitor,” New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus returns with “Local Business,” pushing its trademark sound in new directions.
“It feels real wrong smiling,” sings frontman Patrick Stickles on the opening track “Ecce Homo.” And that might as well be the band’s mantra. Titus Andronicus has always been (for lack of a better word) angsty. But Stickles is such a smart lyricist, and the band so game to musically match his wit, that it’s carried well.
The record really kicks off with “Still Life With Hot Deuce and Silver Platter,” which rocks with the swagger of mid-period The Clash or The Thermals, complete with melodic harmonies.
The centerpiece of the album is the one-two punch of “Food Fight!” a 1950s-inspired trifle (complete with harmonica), and “My Eating Disorder,” one of two token epics that pass the eight-minute mark.
In many ways, “Local Business” is the group’s most confident album yet. Sure, “(I Am The) Electric Man” just flat out doesn’t work, and “Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)” is two minutes of Stickles singing “I’m going insane” over and over again. Repetitive digressions like this seemed appropriate on earlier albums but here, it feels distractingly out of place.
But these are minor missteps. The late-in-the-album pair of “In a Big City” and “In a Small Body” are impressively fully-realized and are two of the finest songs the band has produced yet.
No one is going to mistake this for an album by anyone other than Titus Andronicus. While it may be more immediately accessible for new listeners, older fans might at first struggle to peel back the layers to find the band they know and love. But it’s worth the work because on “Local Business,” Titus Andronicus still gives us plenty to shout along to.