I am quite nervous for the 20-30 year interval of my life. I’ve always been a sucker for aimless twenty-something influenced media (which is what probably constructs my anxiety). Noah Baumbach’s cult-classic about wandering Liberal Arts grads, Kicking and Screaming is one of my favorite movies of all time, The Dismemberment Plan’s post-collegiate dissertation, Emergency & I, has an irregularly high play rate on my iTunes library, and Dave Egger’s enduring and youthful memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius has a cemented spot on my bookshelf. That interval is a suspenseful time in one’s life; a person’s mentality can waiver from intense happiness to tinkering with a mental, physical, or economic meltdown in a finger snap. Despite this instability, the era’s volatility is dangerously fun to examine for others. Take a look at a politically liberal twenty year old barista. He probably has a Liberal Arts degree, not sure what he wants to do with his life, and is stuck brewing cups of coffee for now. He is walking on a mental tightrope and on one side of his landing zone is success: happiness, monetary stability, and eagerness, while the other side is failure: living a life meaningless toil, financial insecurity, and degeneration. And when you’re stuck in your twenties, unsure of the world, falling off that rope can seem pretty damn easy and staying put in the dead center can be even easier. Patrick Stickles of the New Jersey punk-rock outfit, Titus Andronicus has always seemed to have that social anxiety. The band’s terrific debut, The Airing of Grievances was riddled with stories of running away from life and living in nihilism. The band’s second and even more impressive effort, The Monitor, still carried this angst, but felt slightly more confident, as if Titus wanted to punch life’s delicacy in the face and smash it to bits. On their brilliant new third LP, Local Business, the band find themselves yet again stuck in a social-philosophical dilemma. However, Stickles doesn’t seem so set on winning his battle against conformity and life’s absurdity, he’s quite content living a semi-nihilistic, semi-hedonistic, DIY lifestyle. On the album’s somber closer, “Tried to Quit Smoking,” Stickles reveals his newly found peace with himself, boasting the tattoo-worthy line, “What I did, I did. Who I am, I am. Then a stupid kid, now a stupid man.” The song’s barstool chord progression rambles on and on, like a four-whiskey-and-coke-in cowboy with a babbling mouth. The instrumentation wallows in drippy resentment allowing Stickles to clarify his position in life. The first half of the song is filled with lines of humanistic disapproval such as, “It is not that I do not love you, it’s just that I hate everyone,” and youthful radical ranting like, “Why was I screamin’ kill, kill, kill, Ronald Reagan?,” which allow Stickles to get his last, angry yet content word in. The song eventually descends into a musical jam session; there is musical smorgasbord of bluesy harmonica, surging, hopeful guitar leads, tumbling piano rolls, and a six-shooter blazing outro. “Tried to Quit Smoking” is an unforgettable song that dives into themes of self-acceptance, redemption, and even insanity. Local Business’ intellectuality, uniqueness, and the mindset you are left in after a listen,feel similar to a Dostoevsky novel; the protagonists face these immense philosophical and social struggles but never throw in the towel, they never give up even in the enormous face of life’s absurdity– and that, to me, is beautifully inspiring. Local Business is yet another masterpiece from these New Jersey punk-rockers and I can’t wait for future releases.
Here is a link for a listen: Tried to Quit Smoking