Album Review: Titus Andronicus – The Will To Live

The New Jersey rockers return with a brilliantly cathartic album about finding empathy and connection in a savage world

Titus Andronicus deal in catharsis. This is a band that have previously used the Civil War and Shakespearean tragedy as analogies for angst and alienation, finding parallels that turn Patrick Stickles’ howls into battle cries and lamentations. And while that might sound a touch grandiose, TA’s punk-tinged rock ‘n’ roll keeps it all grounded in sweat and tears. The songs might be literate and lofty, but they’re equally designed to get you on your feet.

Stickles has never been shy in discussing his personal troubles through his lyrics, but The Will To Live finds him with an overwhelming amount to work through. Principally, since 2019’s An Obelisk, his cousin/best friend/collaborator Matt Miller died, an event that, combined with everything else that’s happened in the world, seems to have sent Stickles down a path of contemplating mortality and the inevitable connection between love and grief. Remarkably, he’s never sounded on more solid ground.

Titus Andronicus - (I'm) Screwed (Official Video)

The Will To Live is separated into three parts, “The Lion’s Den”, “Hell On Earth” and “Where The Buffalo Roam”, stages that Stickles has described as a journey from innocence to experience. The protagonist rails against the powers that be on the fantastic ‘(I’m) Screwed’, knowing his undoing is coming but wondering only what form it’ll take. By Part 2, he’s coming to realise how hellish this world really is, finally figuring out in Part 3 how to live and survive within a rigged game and how to find empathy and connection with those who would otherwise be his enemies. It’s a noble outcome but a painful journey to get there.

Titus Andronicus - Give Me Grief (Official Video)

Musically, The Will To Live captures Titus Andronicus in their many guises: the big, catchy rock band on ‘(I’m) Screwed’, ‘Give Me Grief’ and ‘All Through The Night’, the boundary testing psych rockers on the epic ‘Bridge And Tunnel’, the frantic punks on ‘Dead Meat’ and the Cock Sparrers cover ‘We’re Coming Back’. The common thread through all is amp-rattling volume and Stickles, a constant, spitting, snarling presence.

Titus Andronicus - "An Anomaly" (Official Music Video)

Anyone who found The Monitor or The Most Lamentable Tragedy overblown and pretentious will be positively energised by the subtexts and concepts of The Will To Live, but dwelling on the themes of a Titus Andronicus record can sometimes overshadow the tunes within. For all the multi-parts and interludes of TMLT, its calling card was a phenomenal set of hooky stadium rock.

Similarly, The Will To Live strives to recreate a difficult personal journey for Stickles, but it does so via some of the band’s best songs to date. You can already imagine the cathartic joy of shouting “How you gonna turn the screws on me?” back at Stickles when they take the record on the road. Bring your pain, bring your struggles, bring your will to live.

The Will To Live is out to buy and stream from 30 September. Titus Andronicus tour the UK in February 2023. Get tickets here from 30 September