“I know the world’s a scary place/that’s why I hid behind a hairy face,” sings now beardless Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles in “My Eating Disorder.” The eight-minute song is the centerpiece to the Jersey five-piece’s third LP, Local Business, which trades in the eccentricity of 2010’s Civil War battle cry The Monitor for more unfiltered personal tales set to stein-swaying pub punk. “My Eating Disorder” follows the 69-second “Food Fight!,” whose titular refrain is shouted over a glam-basted riff reminiscent of the New York Dolls’ “Personality Crisis.”
Those two songs are good examples of Stickles’ ability to write meat-and-potatoes punk that is smart, unpretentious and fun—even when he’s taking on personal topics like… well, an actual eating disorder. Part of what makes Titus Andronicus’ music cut through is that Stickles isn’t afraid to throw us his baggage, even when it doesn’t shed him in the best light—he’s rarely one to hide behind metaphor or force characters into taxing situations. “I grew up one side of the river; I was a disturbed, dangerous drifter/ Moved over to the other side of the river; Now I’m a drop in a deluge of hipsters” he sings on “In a Big City.”
Stickles has never shied away from showing his influences, either. This time he digs deeper into early-’70s glam, and even Stones swagger (“(I Am the) Electric Man”) and melancholy Plastic Ono Band-inspired pop (“Tried to Quit Smoking”). Guitars go from fuzzed-out tantrums to relaxed jangle often within a single song. What holds it all together is the fact the music remains deeply rooted in the band’s home state of New Jersey—whether it comes through in stadium-sized nods to the Boss or references to specific places.
Local Business is also the first Titus Andronicus album to include a set lineup rather than the revolving cast Stickles brought in to record The Monitor and the band’s 2008 debut The Airing of Grievances. Even that manages to come through—this collection is the band’s tightest and most cohesive, and they do so without losing any of the grit. Titus Andronicus has emerged over the past seven years as a formidable punk rock unit—both live and on tape. And whether Stickles likes it or not, he’s become somewhat of a modern-day working-class hero. With Local Business, he again does us proud.