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Monitor

4.7 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

If Bruce Springsteen sowed the seeds of small-town introspection, his fellow New Jerseyites Titus Andronicus are flooding the fields. The punk quintet deconstructed postindustrial life with its gut-wrenching debut, The Airing of Grievances. And the band's sophomore LP, The Monitor, crushes the rosy spectacles of heartland rock, peeling away the fa‡ade of barroom camaraderie to reveal an entire generation inured to those highs. The comedown is a deeply pessimistic exploration of Americana and its now-quixotic quest for authenticity, loosely tethered to a fictional Civil War-era travel narrative spanning the trackless forests between New Jersey and Massachusetts. The band makes liberal use of quiet/loud/quiet counterpoints between vocals and instrumentation; muted guitar modulations explode with incendiary riffs and thunderous drums, then revert to quiet drone. Patrick Stickles' choked Oberstian yelp surfs the slow boil of opener "A More Perfect Union" for nearly two minutes before a wry lyrical nod ("Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to die") introduces the lead guitar. Bluesy piano rocker "Titus Andronicus Forever" and the banjo-driven stomp of "Richard II" paint apocalyptic portraits of physically and spiritually wasted communities. These heart-on-sleeve polemics are bookended by soliloquy and recitations of Abraham Lincoln's speeches that pop and hiss with warnings that "if destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher." Sprawling 14-minute closer "The Battle of Hampton Roads" is named after the Civil War naval stalemate between the Monitor and Merrimack ironclads, a futile battle echoed in Stickles' narration of ever-increasing self-destructive excess: "And there is no race more human / No one throws it away like they do." For Titus Andronicus, there are no more glory days to be had in Jersey, or anywhere else. "The enemy is everywhere" is The Monitor's twice-invoked refrain, the central thesis of an album that's both uncompromisingly bleak and impossible to ignore.

Product Details

  • Audio CD (March 9, 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • ASIN: B003HZS4CQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Red on Black TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 13, 2010
Format: Audio CD
So what do we have here then? In short it is a concept album using the American Civil War as an extended metaphor for a young man's journey away from his ancestral home in New Jersey to his new home in Boston, combined with a sort of half hearted homage to Bruce Springsteen. It doesn't sound very promising does it? Amazingly then it is all the more surprising that "The Monitor" by Titus Andronicus largely works and on times works brilliantly. Moreover a band which take their name from a minor Shakespearean tragedy turn out to be a high voltage, messy, punk American bar band who have recorded in the words of Drowned in Sound "just a stupendous collection of songs; one that demands to be listened to as loudly as you can possibly get away with"

The Monitor is of course the great American civil war iron clad battleship that fought to a standstill its Confederate equivalent CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads. It is no great shock then to find a 14 minute long ode to said battle on this album which in its ninth minute introduces the bagpipes!

Let us forget the concept for now and pose the key question what's the music like? The album starts with someone quoting Abraham Lincoln and then "A more perfect union" erupts. Squalls of feedback breach into a huge drum beat/riff which would put the Gaslight Anthem to shame and singer Patrick Stickles announcing that "I never wanted to change the world, I'm not looking for a new New Jersey / But tramps like us / Baby we were born to die". Indeed the current obsession of young American bands with the Boss knows no bounds except in this case its Bruce's nasty nephews at happy hour with ASBOs! At about 4 minute 10 seconds it seems to break into a different song that could be the Dropkick Murphys. Just hear it.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Since I liked this recording almost immediately a few months ago I waited a few more months before posting a review to see if my enthusiasm would wear off. I still love it, consider it the best of the year and may even put it as one of my favorites in the last 10 years or so.

They wear their hearts on their sleeves - respectfully pulling from their influences but never sounding derivative (kind of like Wilco or Doves at their best). Its also brave that they pulled of a concept recording and have songs that run 7-10 minutes long. Definitely recommend not judging the band or recording by the you tube version of "a more perfect union" but getting the full version of "The Monitor".

I'm 42 and Westerberg has provided the soundtrack of my last 28 years. Yes, musically you can draw similarities to the mats -lyrical wordplay and musical ragged glory. My enthusiasm does as well - an indie band that's so deserving you want the world to hear yet selfishly you want to keep to yourself. That probably hasn't happened for me since discovering Sonic Youth.
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Format: Vinyl Verified Purchase
There are only three albums that I can say have really really noticeably changed the way I look at music. They are "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel, "Let It Be" by the Replacements, and this stellar record by a band that is in my opinion one of the finest groups making music today. Patrick Stickles has one of the edgiest voices I've ever heard (I named my singing saw after him). The lyrics and guitar solos and pianos are all in just the right places. My second-favorite album of 2010, behind Twisted Fantasy.

On a side note, if you can find the opportunity to see them live, do it. Chanting 'you will always be a loser!' and 'the enemy is everywhere!' at Lollapalooza is the highlight of my summer.
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Format: Audio CD
By the time the album's closer, The Battle of Hampton Roads began, I knew this would be the best album I would hear all year. Then the bagpipe solo hit and I fell in love with this record all over again. If there's one thing I would want to touch on with this album, its the lyrics. They are downright some of the best lyrics I've ever heard. At times they sound almost "emo", but the voice theyre coming from sounds so sincere and downright angry you can't help but become entangled in them and believe them.

"Everything makes me nervous and nothing feels good for no reason.
Waking up, it's rarely worth it - the same dark dread every morning.
Senior year here in Mahwah, a new world just around the corner,
Leave me behind, let me stagnate, in a fortress of solitude."

Its lyrics like these that really make the album. Sure, theres great guitar solos and snare-roll filled drumming, but I just love the lyrics and the singing. Its the type of CD you just put in your car and drive around listening to, taking the long way home to enjoy the songs.

If there was one criticism I could put towards this record its that the songs sometimes feel a bit bloated, but hell, thats pretty much they're style. Its something you can look past, and overall its a five star album.
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A concept album about the Civil War complete with spoken word interludes sounds like a disasterous, pretentious dog turd of an idea. Sometimes things that sound awful in theory turn out to be pretty amazingly good (Think'Seperation Sunday' by the Hold Steady). The keys are: First, a real appreciation and understanding of indie rock history that allows the band to reference Billy Bragg and Yo La Tengo among others. Second, a real self-depricating resigned Westerbeg-like lyrical approach. The sense of humor underpinning it all prevents any pretentiousness. More importantly, recent indie rock releases have, in general, been too self-conscious and reserved to really rock. In the golden age bands like the 'Mats, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Squirrel Bait etc.. could be smart and exciting. Todays Pitchfork-promoted indie darlings see smart and exciting as mutually exclusive attributes. Not Titus Andronicus. This record is an outstanding accomplishment especially for a second album. Many great bands (The Jam, Replacements etc.. ) have churned out forgetable second LPs. The fact that Titus Andronicus has improved on their impressive debut suggests that they will have staying power. This CD has been in heavy rotation since I got it and never gets old. Buy this and you will not be disappointed.
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