#39. Titus Andronicus: The Most Lamentable Tragedy
The Most Lamentable Tragedy easily ties for the densest album on this list. Its scope is so broad that it defies succinct summary. A rock opera of the punk variety, it spans upwards of thirty tracks and is separated into five large acts. To put it bluntly, TMLT is all over the place. Interestingly though, that’s what makes it Titus Andronicus’ best album.
At first glance it’s hard to figure out what the album is about. Shakespearean plays are referenced prominently (in addition to the band’s name, the album’s fourth act is alternatively titled either The Other Side or A Midsummer Night’s Dream). The album’s unnamed hero stumbles through multiple dream sequences, battles insanity, and even comes face to face with his doppelganger. But as these seemingly scatterbrained episodes are laid forth, the album is revealed to be a cohesive concept album. The theme: manic depression, something singer/guitarist/songwriter/frontman Patrick Stickles has publicly struggled with over the years.
As one might expect from a concept album about bipolar disorder, the songs cover a wide range of moods and subgenres. TMLT features modern punk records, but also explores the sounds of The Clash and delves into Springsteen’s heartland rock. It even reaches outside the boundaries of rock, with a rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” and a strange choral interlude that chants the phrase “glory to Ra in the highest” in liturgical harmonies. The common thread throughout the album’s five acts is Stickles’ hypnotic voice, half-singing and half-screaming about identity and sanity.
The lyrics are surprisingly fun for a hefty work about such heavy subject matter. On the fleeting “I Lost My Mind” (the second of two songs with the same title), Stickles sings about searching for his mind at a lost and found, and sneaks in probably the best line of the album: “I said ‘pardon me, I seem to have lost my mind’ / she said, ‘well can you identify it please?’ / I said ‘why sure, it’s a cute lil’ booger.’” Maybe it’s these unique lyrics that keep the album captivating all the way through. Maybe it’s how each track is relatively short and often bleeds straight into the next. Maybe it’s the varied rock styles that pop up throughout. It’s likely a combination of all of these that makes TMLT such a strong album that is much less monotonous than one would expect for an album of its size.