Titus Andronicus

Ambition In Five Acts

Photo by Matthew Greeley

BY Matt WilliamsPublished Jul 29, 2015

Since Patrick Stickles rose up with fists held high in July 2005 as frontman for Titus Andronicus, he and the band have done nothing half-assed. That's probably because the choices Stickles makes as an artist and songwriter are painstakingly calculated. Decisions in Titus Andronicus's world are never arbitrary.
"They're made over a lot of fuckin' sleepless nights," Stickles says, while smoking pot inside the band's noble steed, Vandronicus. "A lot of fuckin' years, a lot of it was sittin' on our ass. People say 'Where's Titus Andronicus? They're probably fuckin' strung out, they're probably jerkin' off. Patrick Stickles is probably in some institution upstate or somethin'. But we're not. We're working. We're trying to figure this shit out."
Titus Andronicus's breakout record was The Monitor, a crushing breakup album using the American Civil War as a backdrop. Their latest, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, is a 90-plus-minute rock opera in five acts. It's an allegorical tale inspired by Stickles' experience with manic depression. Our hero, in the depths of despair, meets his doppelganger — the same in every way except the opposite in disposition — which sends him on a "transformative odyssey," and to the "shocking revelation that the very thing that sustains him may be the very thing to destroy him." It spans cinematic rock'n'roll, punk, hardcore, post-rock and aural dream sequences, combining them masterfully alongside the incredible narrative.
The danger of such a massive concept is clear. What if no one gets it? To combat his magnum opus being misunderstood, Stickles has essentially critic-proofed the album, with handwritten lyric sheets, clear notes about what each song means in the "solar system" of the record, and even an accompanying 14-minute short film that "portrays the action of the second act."
"If there's enough information out there that's officially sanctioned by me, that comes directly from the artist, and it's available on the internet for free — if you go to our site we'll make it so easy to find all of it — then you don't have any fucking excuse to say you just don't get it. You just didn't put enough time into it."
TMLT is worth it. It might even bring to fruition one of Titus Andronicus's biggest ambitions: to be the best.
"I couldn't stand in a court of law, with my hand on the bible — not that I wouldn't wipe my ass with it — but you know, I couldn't swear that we're the greatest band in the world," Stickles says. "But if I don't go around saying it, then no one's gonna fuckin' believe it."
It might be time to start believing.

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