A band named for Shakespeare's character, Titus Andronicus is erratic, frenzied, and at times borderline psychotic. The group's debut album, The Airing of Grievances, meanders from blitzkrieg punk to lo-fi post-punk to psychedelic rock, while mixing in spoken-word renditions of some of the play's most dramatic lines. But, while Titus Andronicus is considered by many as one of Shakespeare's worsts, this record thrives in its chaotic mix of sounds and styles.
The opening track, "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ," closes with a reading of Aaron the Moor's demented monologue from Act V of Titus Andronicus, set to a ghostly drone. "Oft have I digg'd up dead men from their graves and set them upright at their dear friends' door, even when their sorrows almost was forgot, and on their skins, as on the bark of trees, have with my knife carved in Roman letters, 'Let not your sorrow die though I am dead.'" Following such twisted images, "My Time Outside the Womb" jerks the listener in the opposite direction, opening with a comparatively sunny, major-key, '60s-style rock tune.
"Titus Andronicus" features banging piano chords, a high-energy rolling beat, and wailing punk vocals reminiscent of Joe Strummer. The ubiquitous half-step-up key change at the song's end might be a little much, but the track has a barroom scream-along quality to it that makes it the record's most immediately catchy song.
Titus Andronicus has a heavy lineup of cross-country tour dates in the coming weeks, playing 39 shows between Friday and Aug. 18. As Aaron the Moor is quoted in the opener, "I have done a thousand dreadful things as willingly as one would kill a fly, and nothing grieves me heartily indeed but that I cannot do ten thousand more."
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