Titus Andronicus

Naming an album The Most Lamentable Tragedy may seem like copping a page out of the Billy Corgan playbook of pretentiousness, but Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus somehow gets a free pass for opting for that ridiculous title. When you have the audacity to name your band after a Shakespearean play, everything from here on out should be fair game.

Stickles, the mad genius behind the New Jersey-based punk group, isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself, but he rarely dabbles in irony (a welcome breath of fresh air in indie rock.) He’s the guy who somehow managed to compare the Civil War to his angst-ridden frustration with modern suburban life without sounding like a complete egomaniac. You get the feeling that when he talks about “The Most Lamentable Tragedy” he honestly doesn’t consider that hyperbole.

He’s at his finest when he’s infuses the epic-ness of existence with the minutiae of day-to-day life, which is why the band’s first two albums—their excellent debut The Airing of Grievances and subsequent follow-up masterpiece The Monitor—soared to great heights, while their third album, the inconsistent Local Business, failed to meet those expectations. Simply put, the last album lacked the grandeur and scope of vision of its predecessors.

Fortunately, a lack of a grand vision is not a problem for The Most Lamentable Tragedy (or TMTL).

Not. By. A. Long. Shot.

The album, which is 29 tracks long (!) and clocks in at 93 minutes, is hailed by the band as a “rock opera” and being described in the band’s press release thusly: “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.” That’s a whole lot to take in, and certainly represents a return to the existential massiveness that is Stickles’ specialty.

Which is why it’s so exciting that he has his group back on the road to tour behind their fourth album. He’s certainly a tortured-soul type, but Stickles grew up revering the punkers whose hearts were in all the best places (think Ted Leo), so he knows how to stage a performance that will delight and engage the audience. Each Titus Andronicus performance feels like a performance. And each new show will take on additional meaning, with Stickles’ hinting that this might be Titus Andronicus’ last go-round.

When the band returns to San Francisco on September 29 at The Chapel—their first concert in the city in nearly two years—expect the production to match the unchecked ambition of their latest album. For the brainy, yet impassioned Stickles, the end isn’t likely to come with a whimper, but with a bang.

Titus Andronicus, Spider Bags, Baked
The Chapel
September 29, 2015
8pm, $18-20