The crème de la crème
Take a mixing bowl and add a moderate dose of the irresistibly turbulent power chords of the Sex Pistols, a pinch of panache from Kiss’ glory days, the furious pace of Black Flag, one bold son of a bitch from New Jersey and a whole lot of Creem and you get Titus Andronicus’ fifth studio album An Obelisk. Garden State native Patrick Stickles has been at the wheel of the sonic Mack truck that is Titus Andronicus since 2005, playing and recording, alongside revolving band members, with the same military frigidness yet tragic abandon of the Shakespearean play the group is named after. Titus Andronicus’ An Obelisk can only be described as a 1970s blast from the past patch on the road that is rough and rowdy good.
“Just Like Ringing a Bell” ignites the record with a Ramones-styled 1-2-3-4 call that unleashes distorted guitars strummed with such fury they would quickly get a nod from Johnny Ramone himself. As Stickles lacerates his vocal cords, one can’t help but wonder if the album can keep the hectic pace, but it sure as hell does. “(I Blame) Society” feels like a track ripped out of the pages of Creem Magazine’s reputable years, a song which would have then become an in-your-face anthem for the wasted Detroit youth. “My Body and Me” is a twelve-bar blues so rusted and dirty that listening ears will need a tetanus shot. The bagpipe finale in “Hey Ma” blends with the stiff rock progression superbly, a tribute to another ’70s band some people may have heard of called AC/DC. The slow breakdown in “Within the Gravitron” feels like a post-sex cigarette drag, and the groovy bass in “Tumult Around the World” the defining sugary aftertaste of it all, sticky sweet.
With so many influences swirling around in a raunchy sonic cocktail of fun, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that Titus Andronicus is a band filled with vast originality and big balls. The group injects indie-rock steroids into its body of punk rock, juicing up for a sound that feels so modern despite its clear ’70s tendencies. It takes a lot of viscera for a group to so faithfully take on such a storied era in music and pull it off magnificently, for the better part of the last decade no less! With just enough electric guitar flourishes and moments to catch your breath, Titus Andronicus has made yet another record fit for the modern age, a crème de la crème indie-rock album.
An Obelisk may not top the Billboard charts this summer, but it is still a record made with pure guts, by a band that keeps on flying past modesty. An Obelisk reminds one of a time when people challenged rock, and rock challenged people back, a time when music was never so well written about because it critiqued people as much as people critiqued it.