If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.
Live music sucks, right? The imagery that a record creates is always shattered by the imperfections of humanity. That’s the beauty of recorded work, an artist can polish and polish until all mistakes are hidden under layers of technique and session musicians. You can feed the vocalist through a fuzzbox and call it Garage Rock, or place the drums out of sync and dequantise the guitars and call it Lo-Fi Indie. These tricks don’t undermine the legitimacy of the work because what is created is a piece of art.
But how do you pay for this slick recording? Tour. Expose your musical abilities to the scathing public. Allow your hard work to be deconstructed by a lazy blogger or music critic. Allow your carefully mixed records be swallowed by miscommunication with the sound tech. Allow your songs to become tangled by vices and verses. Channel your pure ideas through sweating fingers, muddy the air with mismixed frequencies, and charge people for the privilege.
This was my initial sentiment whilst walking in to see Titus Andronicus supporting Fucked Up at Bristol’s Fleece. Around the corner we heard the fuzzed guitars of Titus Andronicus’ A More Perfect Union, one of the best openings to an album I’ve heard, and my heart sank. The pure release of the Springsteen-inverted ‘Baby we were born to die’ was gone. In 30 seconds I’d ruined the show.
I’ve had some quite long conversations with audiophiles who hate live music. Their love of recorded sound is so absolute that any dip in audio quality renders the praxis inadequate. Titus Andronicus would have cemented their views. Shot vocal chords half-spluttering down a microphone and so many distorted guitars meant that a bizarre wall of noise, held together by snares and cymbals, is what confronted us. It was perfect.
I’ve listened to A More Perfect Union a lot, and objectively this was the worst I’d ever heard it. But ideologically many of us are straight-jacketed into loving live music. Its ephemerality, its reality and its fallibility make it much more tangible than anything put on record. Live music, like any live art, stands for more than it can ever intend. It is a reflection our own humanity, and the imperfect implementation of ideologies creates so much more Truth than any recorded sound ever can for me.
Part of my love for The Monitor comes from its saturation of cultural references, yet the Bristol show has made me go back and question that. On a surface level the lyricism pricks my ears, and it’s always satisfying to identify a reference. Yet there is another quality that I had ignored until the show. It’s a quality I should hate: the simplicity of Blues Rock. I’ve seen too many pub bands and school shows to ever want to see a band ‘jam’, and I avoid any band who cite ‘Acca-Dacca’ or ‘RHCP’ as influences because at the end of the day they all base their songs around blues chord structures and the dreaded pentatonic scale. And this is exactly what Titus Andronicus do. They even lined their guitarists up in mock-Kiss style triple-threat rock-attack, synchronising their gyrations and harmonising their riffs. But their playful sincerity and self-deprecation undermined any critical observations I wanted to make and I ultimately lost myself in chants of ‘the enemy is everywhere’, relishing every second of their eighteen minute conclusion to the afternoon. Let the audiophiles bemoan clipping monitors, I’m for something more visceral.
If deconstruction be our lot, we ourselves must be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.
(Many thanks to Noisey for the free tickets)