Punk has always been a genre for the winter in my books, and for that reason Titus Andronicus’ fourth album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, sat in my library untouched when it was first released on July 28th. Over the last few weeks I have tapped into the 2-disk punk opera, and it has been the perfect fit for the oncoming cold weather. Titus Andronicus’ previous album was uncharacteristic of the band due to its stripped-down, less conceptual nature. The Most Lamentable Tragedy brings the listener right back to the stuff of their first two glorious records. The ambitious 29 tracks on the album are divided into 5 acts which tell the story of a manic depressive protagonist who is confronted by his doppelganger, and is taken on a revelatory journey. To get a bit more of a concrete (kind of) idea of the tale, check out this video made for the second act of the opus:
The Most Lamentable Tragedy may be a long haul, but every moment of it is well executed. The first disk is truer to classic punk, featuring a battery of high-energy songs. It has a unrelenting feeling cemented by the smooth transitions between tracks. This does not mean that the songs lack nuance, and there is plenty of deep layering for the listener to sink their teeth into.
I personally prefer the second disk, or acts 3-5, which is much more varied than the first disk. The latter half of the album features songs that really travel, perfectly exemplified by “S(HE) SAID / S(HE) SAID”, a song which takes the listener through 9 minutes of variations on a thematic structure. Vocal choirs, string arrangements and a couple of ballads to close the record cement The Most Lamentable Tragedy as a unique exploration within punk.
I am curious to see how The Most Lamentable Tragedy relates to Titus Andronicus’ first two albums, at least on the level of a few songs. I was very excited to see the addition of two more installment to the series of songs called “No Future” which were previously included on both The Airing of Grievances and The Monitor. “More Perfect Union” must be some kind of nod to “A More Perfect Union” on The Monitor, but I have not investigated enough to find out what these connections truly are. These are just a few more nuggets in the conceptual bounty that is Titus Andronicus.
If you’re a punk fan, this album is a must-hear. If you are not, The Airing of Grievances is one of the albums that made me appreciate punk, so check that one out.