What is it about New Jersey that spawns so many bands embedded with a trace of Springsteen-ian DNA? Is it in the water? From the get-go, “A More Perfect Union” pays homage to Bruce Almighty, though the band cloaks their nod in flannel-shirted, Stink-era Replacements-inspired grit and snot. (In truth, it’s mostly vocalist Patrick Stickles’ uncanny similarity to Paul Westerberg’s gravelly yelp that conjures that band.) Titus Andronicus’ debut, The Airing of Grievances, evoked the same musical touchstones, but this time around the whiskey-soaked spirit of the Pogues also permeates, and the band feels more focused, the production is greatly improved, and it’s a loopy Civil War theme that conjures a chuckle, rather than gnarled nods to Albert Camus and uh, Jerry Seinfeld. The readings here are from Abe Lincoln and Jefferson Davis instead of Camus’ “The Stranger,” but that doesn’t mean the band’s bare-knuckled punch is any more polished or polite. If anything, The Monitor’s flammable guitars and yearning howl evoke that youthful ache for finding the meaning of life — or maybe just another beer — with palpable fervor and certain longing.
A More Perfect Union
Titus Andronicus Forever
No Future, Pt. Three: Escape from No Future
Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Dimensions and the Madness of Crowds (Responsible Hate Anthem)