by John Tarpley
What a much-needed alternative to the navel-gazing "me, me, me" pasture of indie bands. This basement-punk outfit is one of the most ambitious rock acts in recent memory. Now take "ambitious" and replace it with "intelligent," "important," "complex," "inspired," "celebrated" or "straight-up exhilarating" for a quick describe-all of these new New Jersey darlings. The band's debut album, 2008's "The Airing of Grievances" was an instant classic of the genre. Triumphant, unhinged and relentlessly melodic, the outfit drew its spazzed-out sound from guitar heroes Dinosaur Jr. and U.K. folk-punkers The Pogues, all the while alluding to Shakespeare, Camus and Dutch master Pieter Bruegel. Soon after being embraced by the notoriously elitist taste-makers, front man/history buff Patrick Stickles began cavorting as a glam-rock Ulysses S. Grant while writing the follow-up, "The Monitor," an expansive concept album about the Civil War. Or growing up in small town New Jersey. Or the degeneration of a country at-large. Interpretation aside, it's an electric, domineering opus full of punk suites and retooled, shanty Irish jigs as shambolically drunk as it is defiantly whip-smart, belligerently walking (and puking on) the divide between "exhilarating" and "self-indulgent" for an epic 65 minutes.
Between screaming guitar solos, lugubrious, wailing sincerity and spoken word samples drawn from Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, Stickles unites the "never say die" punk ethos with 1860s fierce determination, bending time and history to draw a short, thick line between the 1st Dragoon Calvary and Agnostic Front. Smart, wild and at the front of the pack, Titus Andronicus is bringing one of the most anticipated shows of the summer to town and one of those rare, Monday night treats in Little Rock that can't be passed up. It's a shoo-in for our pick of the week. Wicked Good, the local supergroup that gets better and better with each show, and The See, Little Rock's anthemic answer to the night's headliners, provide support.