I think by now we've established / everything is inherently worthless / and there is nothing in the universe / with any kind of objective purpose.
titus andronicus, ecce homo
A couple of lines after this theme-setting opener of Titus Andronicus' third record, Local Business, singer Patrick Stickles regrets the lack of time to be explicit about the implications of his statements, and to make generalizations more specific. It's an interesting insight from a band that is so brilliant at writing poignant lines and songs only consisting of one sentence that seem to be designed to be shouted along, There was the weird jubilant quality of No Future Part Three: No Escape on 2010's The Monitor - You will always be a loser, a song that will always remind me of my favourite anthem, The Mountain Goats' No Children - on Ecce Homo, there's Food Fight, but probably fitting the bill more, Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO), which is 2:11 minutes of I'm Going Insane.
And that brings me back to the title of the record, Local Business, which could be about the grassroot kind of patriotism of The Monitor (one of the quotes the albums uses is from Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum address - "All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined [...] 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."), an idea of a country that draws its strength from individual enterprise. There's bits and pieces of it on the record, in Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus, "I've adored every inch of this country through the same dirty windshield / Peeking through blotches of the blood of bugs towards the Elysian Fields", but it makes more sense to think of the title as a comment on the ultimate local business, because most of the songs are about identity, addiction, struggling with eating disorder. The idea of authenticity is brought up right in the first song, both in terms of establishing a life outside a grinding machine of an oppressive job and in relation to the very personal demons that limit freedom in the most terrible ways.
I heard them say
the white man created existential angst
When he ran out of other problems
Cause the thing about those problems was
Typically, more money would solve them
We're breaking out of our bodies now
Time to see what's underneath them.
titus andronicus, ecce homoAs the record progresses, "breaking out of our bodies" becomes the ultimate utopia, an impossible accomplishment, deriving part of its undeniable power from the way Patrick Stickles delivers the lyrics, molding words to fit the metre ("And he's so unsure if being ignored / Was half the pain of being observed."). On Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter, context wins over content ("context wins, con men contact content's next of kin" - the closest you'll get to a pun here) and the rest of the song descends into incomprehensible madness. The combination of In A Big City and In A Small Body draws the map of the record, a map of all the different ways you can fail and you can be failed. "Don't tell me I was born free / That joke has been old since high school".
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