There was exciting news from the Titus Andronicus camp last week. The band's fourth album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, will be coming out on the 28th of July, and it gives me great joy to report that it will be a 29-track, 93-minute, double-disc (triple if you buy the vinyl version) concept album.
Here's the skinny:
The central narrative of TMLT (“a work of fiction,” claims singer/songwriter Patrick Stickles) concerns an unnamed protagonist whom we meet in deep despair. Following an encounter with his own doppelgänger (an enigmatic stranger, identical in appearance though opposite in disposition), long held secrets are revealed, sending our protagonist on a transformative odyssey, through past lives and new loves, to the shocking revelation that the very thing that sustains him may be the thing to destroy him.This announcement was accompanied by the release of Dimed Out, one of those twenty-nine new recordings:
It fucking slays.
In addition to serving as a mouth-watering teaser for the banquet that's to come, Dimed Out also provides us with a rather neat answer to volley back at anyone who dares to ask why Titus Andronicus are releasing a feature-length rock opera.
In the lyrics of this new song, Patrick Stickles (or the narrator to whom he is giving voice) presents himself as a man who does nothing by halves, and one can only assume that this extends to his band's records. None of Titus's previous three albums have exactly been unambitious - heck, The Monitor was a 65-minute State of the Union address that mixed punk music with the words and events of the American Civil War and culminated in a quarter-hour epic called The Battle of Hampton Roads - but The Most Lamentable Tragedy looks set to give Titus fans a larger chunk of "the entire pound" than ever before.
Now, speaking as someone who once claimed that eight tracks is the perfect length for an album, I don't subscribe to the notion that quantity automatically equals quality, or even value for money. Dimed Out is a fantastic first single, but I'm not going to vouch for the quality of TMLT as a whole until I've actually heard the darn thing. However, the scope of this new record's vision makes me very happy indeed; the album is a dying format, even more so the long-form, multi-disc concept album, and the world needs as many The Walls and 69 Love Songses as it can get.
This is what made MEN - Quiet Marauder's 4-disc, 111-track examination of the male pscyhe - my Album of the Year back in 2013. Such ambitious albumscaping is rarely seen these days, and perhaps as a result of this, the very idea of creating a record that's more than just a few singles and a few bits of filler is seen by many as completely absurd. But an album can be whatever you want it to be, so why not create a lengthy magum opus that genuinely aims to be more than the disc onto which it's burned?
With this in mind, perhaps it's time I plonked an addendum on the end of my eight track rule. So here: eight is the perfect number of songs for an album UNLESS you've got an idea or a message that merits more. I like it when it's dimed out, too, but you're not really giving your audience more unless that extra material is there for a reason.
Here's hoping that those twenty-nine tracks will prove to all be winners when they see the light of day in June.