The New Jersey rockers in Titus Andronicus have a knack for spouting high-brow references and grand statements without a hint of pretension. Take the colloquial nihilism in the new record’s first track, “Ecce Homo,” which opens with beleaguered frontman Patrick Stickles (pictured) announcing, “OK, I think by now we’ve established everything is inherently worthless.” For Titus Andronicus, acknowledging worthlessness is not a resignation — this is a band that turned the refrain “You will always be a loser” into a rallying cry on its last album. On the new record they’re just as worked up.
The group has always glorified the downtrodden, and “Local Business” focuses on the struggle of living in America today with candor, humor, and exultation. Stickles remains an eternal everyman in his narration, self-effacing but vivacious. Right before the explosive crescendo of “In a Big City,” he cries, “And every cent I’ve ever earned, I spent. And I would again!” (Who wouldn’t, when everything is inherently worthless?)
Titus Andronicus’s affection for grandeur is clear in prog-like sequences and 8-minute-plus epics like “My Eating Disorder,” but any trace of self-indulgence is cut down by persistent punk ethos and ferocity. The tracks that don’t aim so high — the goofy, minute-long interlude “Food Fight!” and the sing-along “(I Am the) Electric Man” — seem like afterthoughts. The magnificence here comes when a gang of Jersey punks try something big, while acknowledging how small they are. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Ecce Homo”
Titus Andronicus perform Nov. 30 at the Sinclair.
Andrew Doerfler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org