Titus Andronicus plays the kind of music I can get behind: loose, rambling songs structured around tales of suburban escape shot through with Double Jeopardy-level trivia. I feel like I see a decent number of bands these days that make me think "Goddamn, I should've thought of that," and goddamn, I should've thought of that. On record and in live sets I've seen secondhand, the band compensates for the potential tiredness of the songs' themes with unguarded joy in their performance. They sweat out the kind of garage-graduate authenticity that makes music critics swoon.
Titus Andronicus at the Black Cat, Washington, DC, April 27, 2011. Photo by flickr user specimenlife.
Last night, that youthful energy we 30-and-overs feed on like zombies wasn't there for me. Maybe it was the pace of the Titus set, interrupted by long tune-breaks and apparent technical problems with guitarist/violinist Amy Klein's gear, but it just felt tired. Maybe it was the intros/outros (even without the staticky clips of history that break up the albums) that seem like time for a deep breath on record but just amplified the ambient crowd conversations last night. Maybe I just don't like where Titus is headed. The band's newer album "The Monitor" famously addresses the slings and arrows of their NJ upbringing in the dust and drang setting of the Civil War, but those songs just don't quite resonate as much as the unbridled "fuck'em all" lament of "Titus Andronicus," which singer Patrick Stickles claimed, with almost a shrug of embarassment, was the second oldest song they play.
To be fair, opener Double Dagger would've been tough to follow for any band. DD churned through a set of singer Nolen Strals's sneering, winking lectures, with his usual audience involvement, and the precise noise generated by Bruce Willen's bass chords and Denny Bowen's drums. It was the first time I've seen DD live, and I need to make that happen again soon. Patrick Stickles joined the band for "The Lie/The Truth," and they closed it with "Sleeping with the TV on," which destroys. DD represents some of my favorite elements of post-punk/hardcore: creativity, thoughtful anger, and humor. If I could ask Titus Andronicus to absorb a lesson from DD, it's stay angry.