PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Titus Andronicus: [email protected] Rock: Five Nights at the Opera

Titus Andronicus use a tired rock trope to write a love letter to the scene that made them what they are. Frampton Comes Alive this ain't.

Titus Andronicus

[email protected] Rock: Five Nights at the Opera

Label: Merge
US Release Date: 2016-07-29
UK Release Date: 2016-09-16

The goal of Titus Andronicus as a band is one that many artists have attempted over the years: that of making music with a grand, epic sweep that still touches on something deeply personal and intimate. Do it right, and you’re hailed as a genius. Do it wrong, and you become Angels & Airwaves. For Titus Andronicus, though, this goal isn’t just one they’re attempting to reach through music, but also through their conduct as a band. One needn’t look further than the concept behind their new live album, [email protected] Rock. Usually, when a band is on the ascendancy, they tailor a live album to sound as big and epic as possible. Titus, on the other hand, aim to keep things intimate, choosing to showcase not just their dynamic live act, but the close-knit community of friends and fans that made the band into what they are.

Recorded at Shea Stadium -- not the old home of the New York Mets, but a Brooklyn performance space that has served as the band’s de-facto home away from home for years -- [email protected] Rock has the same sort of home-recorded, DIY feel as any of the other recordings that the venue distributes on the web. Furthermore, Titus eschew the career-spanning arc that most live albums follow, choosing instead to highlight 11 of the choice cuts from the massive The Most Lamentable Tragedy. Whether or not these are subtle ways to subvert the tradition of bloated live albums is up to interpretation, but this approach does pare the previously daunting TMLT down to some of its finest moments. If anything, [email protected] Rock serves that purpose for fans unwilling to completely keep up with the band’s ambitions.

While the material that Titus Andronicus is playing is quite expansive in nature, what [email protected] Rock accomplishes most effectively is creating a feeling of intimacy. At times, the album sounds like the recording of a raucous house party as opposed to a live performance. Suitably, the recording quality means that the band are shown in their rawest state, but Titus Andronicus was a band that thrived off of that kind of energy, anyway. While this means that we occasionally get moments like Stickles slurring his way through the beginning of “Into The Void (Filler),” it also means that the unchecked aggression of songs like “Dimed Out” and “Fatal Flaw” comes through perfectly, even surpassing the studio versions in some respects. Even a torch song like “Stable Boy” becomes more bracing and immediate: whereas this is the kind of song that would get lost on a sprawling triple album, here it becomes the deserved centerpiece of an excellent live set. As it fades into the closer “Standing (On Our Own)” and Stickles pleads for a little help from his friends, it feels as if he’s summarizing his band’s allure with misfits and outsiders in one beautiful moment.

Still, it’s hard not to want more from [email protected] Rock. Given Titus Andronicus’ discography up to this point and their sheer power as a live band, longtime fans may find it confusing that at least one deep cut from records past didn’t make the tracklist here. That’s to take nothing away from the material on The Most Lamentable Tragedy, which is often great, but fan favorites like “Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ,” “Four Score And Seven,” and “Still Life with Hot Deuce on a Silver Platter” are nowhere to be heard here, and [email protected] Rock sadly suffers for it.

Then again, a comprehensive portrait of the band would be one of those traditional rock moves that Titus Andronicus have studiously avoided thus far. [email protected] Rock is an album that demands to be considered on its own terms, as it intends to highlight a communal experience rather than a band’s popularity. Rather than laud themselves, Titus Andronicus instead chose to honor the fans and friends who fostered their creativity and helped them on the path to success. That they sound great doing it is just a bonus for the rest of us.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.