Titus Andronicus return in a glory of flames with A Productive Cough

A Productive CoughIt’s funny: A Productive Cough is ostensibly the least punk thing that Titus Andronicus have put out in their 10-year career. And yet we need only scratch the surface to find evidence of more punk substance than any number of posturing pretenders, stomping around, claiming the name as an affectation.

Frontperson Patrick Stickles has previous in this regard. Their first couple of albums had the feeling of an American-Irish Bruce Springsteen tribute act spilling out into the street only partially of their own volition, in a Guinness and Bushmills-soaked haze, refusing to stop their epically-scaled punk knees-up until most of them ended up in a police cell, a hospital or just a gutter. The second of these, The Monitor, was naturally themed around the American Civil War, because, you know… Why aren’t your other albums themed around major historical events, eh? If you don’t know the band, start with this.

A third, distinctly-less bombastic album, Local Business, was received less favourably – naturally Stickles’ reaction was to declaim at length about how it was a superior work online, calling in question the punk quotient of any dissenters (if anyone had a leg to stand on in this regard, it is the man who rather brilliantly called Kendrick Lamar a “shoe spokesperson”). It all had the whiff of him doing it to piss you off, which is to be respected and admired.

Sadly, evidence of this has been removed from the Twit-sphere, and Local Business is absent from Spotify. Naturally, epic 29-track return-to-form The Most Lamentable Tragedy, built around an analysis of Stickle’s mental health, followed this. There’s nothing more punk than being open about how fucked you are in the skull meat. Seriously, is there?


Titus Andronicus are nothing if not unpredictable, as you can see. And therefore we have A Productive Cough. Which is probably one of those let’s-see-how-many-people-this-will-piss-off numbers that happen in between the really good ones. It’s not dissimilar, to be fair, to the typical Titus Andronicus sound – just strip out some of the nasty guitar, foreground the piano, throw in a Bob Dylan cover for some reason (a fairly faithful but pleasingly-growled version of "Like a Rolling Stone", with a refractive I’m thrown into the title and chorus, continuing to draw on Stickles’ most fruitful subject matter). Indeed, it seems Stickles’ challenge that the records were ballad-laden all along, but you couldn’t hear it for the guitars, can quite fairly be met with a, “Yeah, I suppose they were.” And maybe a “They sounded better that way, though,” if you were feeling rash.

A Productive Cough is, however, a fun collection of raucous ballads – it’s not quite “My Heart Will Go On” – with big sing-along choruses (“Real Talk” is just one Old McDonald style chorus), complete with one T Rex-echoing glam rocker in “Home Alone”, that will certainly bring you cheer in the colder months. And there’s plenty of swagger, snarling, and not-giving-a-fuckery here, which goes a surprisingly long way in counteracting any honky-tonk naffness.

The most interesting thing now will be now waiting to see what Stickles et al do next – return to the sound with which they made their name? Just do this again? Retire from music altogether? No idea, mate, but it’s nice to have some artists like this, isn’t it?

Release: 2nd March 2018, Merge Records

One Response to “Titus Andronicus return in a glory of flames with A Productive Cough”


  1. Titus Andronicus return in a glory of flames with A Productive Cough – Live List - 05/03/2018

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