His conclusion was simple: "Kids, we are blowing it. Everything they say about us is true."

Months later, Stickles still feels much the same. "We don't want to be a band that plays bar mitzvahs or whatever," he says. "But what can we do? We'd love to act like Fugazi, but Fugazi sold two million records. Unfortunately, we're subject to the whims of our bodies. And our bodies want things like food and shelter and clothing."

As The Monitor sails on, Stickles similarly shifts his tone from bombastic to reflective, cycling through disgust, guilt, and, finally, acceptance. The sound drifts from twang-punk on "Theme From Cheers" to the bar-driven blues of "Four Score and Seven" to the crescendoing guitar-rock closer "The Battle of Hampton Roads," wherein Stickles, amid funereal-sounding bagpipes, considers the decline of true patriotism: "Because we have found out that if you've been assured/That there's a way to live the values your forefathers gave you/Prepare to be told/'That shit's gay, dude.' "

Looks like they've found some new bandmates.
Bao Nguyen
Looks like they've found some new bandmates.

Ultimately, like any good confessional, The Monitor chronicles a man wrestling with how to align himself with, well, his own self. Figuring out whether or not those who insisted, "You will always be a loser" (the record's catchiest chorus, by the way) were right. Because that'd be the worst: realizing you're a loser long after everyone else has. In the end, our hero heads home, thoroughly defeated, still waving a flag, but this time a white one: "I'm going back to New Jersey/I do believe they've had enough of me."

Besides an evident fascination with naval warfare, Stickles and John Ericsson have little in common. The latter would go on to design what became the modern-day torpedo; finding revolutionary new ways to blow shit up became his calling card. Stickles, by contrast, turns inward, saddened by his surroundings, awash in self-loathing. Monitor highlight "Titus Andronicus Forever" is a fight song that repeats the line, "The enemy is everywhere/The enemy is everywhere/But nobody seems worried or to care"; near the album's close, that sentiment is reprised as, "I'm sick and I'm scared/The enemy is everywhere." It's a desperate, sinking feeling—the original USS Monitor did sink, after all.

Titus Andronicus play the Bowery Ballroom on March 6

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