If the year 2009 was a person and one of your mates he'd be a right bore. He'd be constantly broke, sighting the credit crunch at every given opportunity - and he'd probably spend most of his time dreaming up ways to shaft you of all your money. Now if The Airing Of Grievances - the debut album from Titus Andronicus - was also one of your mates, he'd have blugeoned 2009 by now, dumped his lifeless corpse into landfill. Not for the reason that he's a diehard optimist - far from it - in fact, he'd be a vicious little fucker, but he just wouldn't stand for any of this namby-pamby fear mongering that goes on and so far The Airing Of Grievances is the only album to kick the broke ass of 2009 firmly and squarely between its limp little cheeks.
Here are some facts, Titus Andronicus are 5 guys from a small town called Glen Rock in New Jersey, a safe suburban enclave to the west of New York City. The Airing Of Grievances is their debut album following a pair of 7" singles and an early EP, it's got 9 tracks, its 45 minutes long and it's fucking brilliant.
If only I could stop there, but in order to justify my massive wage packet I must go on. The Airing Grievances is essentially a punk record but it's way more complicated than that. It's a pit-bull that thinks it's an alsatian, a punk record that thinks it's an Explosions In The Sky record. At times It can sound like Conor Oberst fronting The Wedding Present and at others it could be No Age fronting the E Street Band. It's supremely muscular and feral and yet highly sophisticated. Singer and chief songwriter Patrick Stickles has a voice like a bandsaw cutting through sheet metal, it's almost constantly out of tune and really couldn't give a shit and it stands proud in front of a deafening wall of sound that is the rest of the band. As in all music it's the relationship between this voice and this sound that holds the key to the albums success. Stickles can morph his voice into a blunt instrument of such power and venom as if it's his only way of smashing through this wall of guitar breeze-blocks that constantly towers above him.
From the opening "Fuck You" howl of Fear And Loathing In Mahwah, NJ this record pummels relentlessly, it's massive musical structure rising slowly like a great city being raised from the oceans depths. Each song adds something different to the mix with this huge sound receding to allow room for punctuating guitar work on Fear And Loathing or the driving rhythm of My Time Outside The Womb. Joset Of Nazereth's Blues balances this might with Springsteen style harmonica while the title track foams at the mouth as Stickles spits the mantra "You're life Is over" repeatedly and eventually being joined by the rest of the band for a climactic finale. But it's the two tracks that follow that this record has been building up to. No Future, Pt 1 and No Future, Pt 2 The Days After No Future transform this record from a fiercely original punk pop album to something stella. They play out as one track and together stretch out over more than 14 minutes. It's one of the only times in the record that the tempo slows down and allows a brief breather. But as Pt 1 builds from this breather like a far off wave it drops into Pt. 2 and all hell breaks loose. Massive instrumental juggernaughts speed off at great speed and really open up the album into something magnificently ambitious.
The track lengths grow as the album progresses and so does the confidence. Stickles' vocals stand shoulder to shoulder with the awesome sound that props it up. He howls, screeches and moans over these huge riffs but always sounds raw and unhinged. The whole record sounds like a basement punk tape while effortlessly stretching out over enormous ground. It's this odd juxtaposition that defines their success. As Stickles shrieks on the title track "No more cigarettes, no more having sex, no more drinking till you fall on the floor, no more indie-rock, just a ticking clock," The Airing Of Grievances is a calamitous voice of doom and with a pounding fist draws a line under much of the music I've heard in a long time.