Titus Andronicus’ last album, 2010’s The Monitor, was a working-class rock concept album based on the American Civil War. On paper that may sound like a risky move, but strangely enough, the loosely focused followup, Local Business, proves a much harder sell. In fact, Titus Andronicus may have just delivered 2012’s stinker of the year.
To get right down to it, Local Business has all the makings of a ’70s coke record gone bad, fuelled by inflated egos, bank accounts and piss-poor ideas. Part of the problem rests in the album’s made-for-MP3 production, as well as the band’s unflatteringly sloppy bar-rock delivery, which is equally grating on both ears and patience. And then there’s the problem of frontman Patrick Stickles. While some singers get better with age, Stickles has only gotten worse, with his vocals coming at you nearly non-stop even though they sound more damaged and off-key than ever.
Plus, there’s some serious riff ripping going on here, with many song sections directly swiped off decades-old glam-punk bands like New York Dolls and Mott the Hoople. It’s likely some attempt at some post-modern irony, but in practice it just comes off lazy and damn dull.
Oh, and the song ideas aren’t really all that stellar either, presenting subjects like car crashes, electrocution and eating disorders in a frustratingly literal fashion. To be fair, the latter topic is a bit brave, but the groan-worthy two-track punch of “Food Fight!” and “My Eating Disorder” is mighty hard to swallow. It’s the kind of thing only a super-fan could listen to more than once.