A Smart Show From Titus Andronicus

Last night, I went to judge how the new Titus Andronicus material would translate live. Their new album, “The Monitor” (named for the union’s civil war ironclad) is some pretty heady stuff. As a student of history, I dig the intellectually challenging American Civil War motif on the album and the band’s ability to stretch the skin of period melodies over good old fashion contemporary teenage angst – and then punctuate it with soaring guitars.

But before the show I wondered whether the kids – or the adults for that matter – at the Vera Project (an all ages venue) would understand or appreciate the message of the new songs. Fears a swaged. Sure Patrick Stickles started the show with an untuned guitar among other technical issues. Can someone get them a roadie? But that aside the band brought relentless energy and conviction to the handful of people (it was a school night) who braved a rainy Tuesday evening in Seattle. I was heartened to see most of the crowd shouting along to songs like “A More Perfect Union” and the closer “Four Score and Seven.”

And even though Titus played a small venue last night, most of those songs could have easily translated into a stadium show. Much of their material riffs on the universal themes of life, death, honor, vengeance – and the enemy within. Huge. I dare say that the lyrics from the new album will stand up for a very long time. And I’m glad I was able to scream out in a crowd timeless refrains like, “It’s still us against them. It’s still us against them,” or the self-loathing rant, “You will always be a loser.”

The themes speak to our nation’s past. But it also reflects our current affairs. The introduction to “A More Perfect Union” on The Monitor album is an excerpt from Abraham Lincoln’s, ”Lyceum Address” one of his earliest published speeches. Below is an expanded excerpt. It echoes as a warning to us all. The real threat comes from within. This is true when we speak of great nations. This is true when we speak of ourselves.

“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice.”

Please take the time to review a collection other works by Abraham Lincoln – some of the greatest political thought ever penned – at the following address.


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