Sunday, October 21, 2012

Band of Horses - "Mirage Rock"

Band of Horses - Mirage Rock

For most fans of Indie Rock(and thanks to the hilariously general nature of the genre, that's a lot of people) there resides a horror story within them, of a beloved band. A band that was once original, once exciting, once emotional, once relatively unknown, but who built up a fan base, maybe switched labels, and eventually devolved into a boring, general, or just overly disappointing act.  I've seen Kings of Leon switch from Southern Strokes to Y'all2, listened to the soul being sucked completely out of Cold War Kids, and now, I've witness the decline and fall of another favorite from my more formative years.  Band of Horses new album "Mirage Rock" can only be summed up properly with a gigantic, collective sigh.

Opening track "Knock Knock" is fine, I guess.  But by the time "Slow Cruel Hand of Time" is 30 seconds in, I'm dosing off.  Ben Bridwell's voice is still a national treasure, the harmonies can still kick your ass, but all the emotional weight is gone.  Long gone are heavy-hitting southern indie home-runs like "The Funeral" or "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands." They've gone from personal letter, to Hallmark card.  "Dumpster World" is a song that not only belongs in the place it's title created, but begs to be insulted as such.  The song is a calm, coolish shuffle, until it kicks in with it's big, bright beautiful(HA) chorus, "I'm happy living in a dumpster world."  Fantastic, because if this album is any indication, you've found it.

Titus Andronicus - "Local Business"

Titus Andronicus - Local Business  8.7/10

Patrick Stickles likes to question why the world around him sucks. On his last go around, he spent 60 minutes switching back-and-forth between the march of Civil War, and life as a twenty-something in New Jersey.  And boy, was it a glorious 60 minutes.  2010's "The Monitor" wasn't just one of the best albums of that year, it was ambitious, literary, flawed, but nonetheless brilliant.

So with that album now 2 1/2 years in the past, Titus Andronicus have brought us "Local Business."  An album that is 10 minutes shorter, much less ambitious, more straightforward, yet still manages to show you exactly why Titus Andronicus are one of the best punk bands on the planet.

Leave it to Stickles to lay out his world view in the opening line of the first song, "I think by now we've established that everything is inherently worthless, and there's nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose."  The song "Ecce Homo" with it's title taken from the words of Pontius Pilate as he presented Jesus Christ bound and sporting a crown of thorns just before his execution, is an opening statement that shows exactly where Stickles' thoughts have lead him.  He's in full "fuck it" mode, and the ensuing 45 minutes develop a dichotomy under which Stickles makes his case.  With titles like "Hot Deuce on a Silver Platter" and "Food Fight," the latter being just another example of Titus Andronicus' ability to craft fantastic, 1-minute punk jams, are examples of the humor Stickles finds in how much the world can suck.  Inversely, titles like "My Eating Disorder" and "Tried to Quit Smoking" point to more serious reasons to be pissed off.  It's this dichotomy that helps carve Stickles' place among the great young punks.

This band wears their New Jersey proudly, aggressively, and directly.  They stick to their Lo-Fi roots, and have created an album that streamlines the sort of rip-roaring, angry, thoughful, referencial, Springsteen, Dinosaur Jr., Conor Oberst indebted music that they've made since their debut "Airing of Grievances."

"Ecce Homo," or "Behold the man."  For Stickles and Titus Andronicus aren't going anywhere.