Monday, August 17, 2015

Thoughts on The Most Lamentable Tragedy

As of last month, everyone inhabits a slightly more perfect universe in which Titus Andronicus have recorded a feature-length rock opera and we can all listen to it. I've listened to The Most Lamentable Tragedy many times over the last week or so - below are some of the thoughts I've had whilst doing so.

  • It's great to see The Most Lamentable Tragedy continuting Titus Andronicus's long-running 'No Future' saga, and No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant may be the best instalment yet. I love how the repeated line "I hate to be awake" can easily be misheard as "I ache to be awake", expressing both that the protagonist is only happy when he's asleep and that he never really feels like he's truly awake.

  • Holy damn, I Lost My Mind (the TA original, not the retitled Daniel Johnston cover) has some serious flow. Check out those verses:

  • The concept of this album is hella pretentious (a good thing, and basically a prerequisite if you're writing a rock opera) but the music itself is frequently as primal and as route-one as anything I've ever heard. If, for example, you heard Dimed Out out of context, you'd never guess that it was torn from the second act of a five-part concept album about manic depression and battling one's inner demons:
  • This album goes a long way towards establishing the violin among the awesomest, punkiest instruments of all time. Dimed Out and Mr. E. Mann are two very strong arguments in favour.

  • A lot of people will dismiss the [Intermission] - consisting of seven minutes and seven seconds of silence - as pointless over-indulgence, but I actually rather like it. I've mainly been listening to The Most Lamentable Tragedy on my phone, and it's nice to have that break artificially inserted into the middle; it reinforces the album's shape and structure whilst nicely emulating the somewhat more immersive experience of listening to a record and having to flip it over halfway through. Mansun did a similar thing on Six, using a short silence at the end of Cancer to denote the end of Side A.

  • Eagle-eared TA fans will notice that I'm Going Insane (Finish Him) is the exact same song as Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO) from previous album Local Business. I'd suggest that recycling songs like this is kinda lazy, but frankly that seems like a slightly churlish remark to make of a band who just released the longest, largest, most complex album of their career so far. I'll let them off this time - at least it's a fun song.
  • By and large, The Most Lamentable Tragedy is mercifully free of all the things that usually make rock operas and double albums slightly naff. Short and musically worthless plot-advancing songs are few and far between (which is more than can be said for, say, The Who's Tommy), and there are actually enough great songs here to warrant a second disc (unlike all those double LPs that, as lazy hack journalists love to point out, 'would have made a really strong single album'). Mind you, I do like this album's little nod to Pink Floyd - just as The Wall is bookended by Roger Waters asking "Isn't this where we came in?", The Most Lamentable Tragedy begins and ends with the same droning noise and dissonant, leaning-on-the-keyboard chords. All the best rock operas are circular, it seems.

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