After the rousing triumph of their 2010 album The Monitor, it was clear that Titus Andronicus were going to have a hard time topping themselves.
Filled with manic intensity and a sweeping, civil war-inspired concept, the album made for an easy cause to rally around.
With their third album, Local Business, the band seems to be turning inward, with singer Patrick Stickles laying bare his own internal conflicts for the world to see.
Set against a backdrop of ripping heartland rock, Stickles makes himself an open book, laying bare all of his anxiety and self-doubt for the world to hear and sing along to.
One of the most revealing sections of the album comes by way of "My Eating Disorder," not just in the way it explores Stickles own struggles with food and mental health, but in how it reframes the songs that come before and after it.
When put into context, the simple fun of "Food Fight" feels like the work of a Greek chorus, with the songs simple, seemingly carefree message a grim portent of things to come.
Meanwhile, "Titus Andronicus vs.
the Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)" is the big finish of the three-song suite that feels like one part revelation and one part cry for help.
Bookending this intensely personal trilogy are songs about self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-consciousness, and though subjects that might normally trend toward self-indulgence, the earnestness of the band's delivery helps to wrap the songs in an inviting warmth that makes it easy to sit a spell and listen.
On the surface, the sounds of the two albums feel pretty similar, but thematically, they're worlds apart.
Where The Monitor was a punk rock general addressing the troops, Local Business is an afternoon barfly telling his problems to anyone willing to listen and stump up for a drink, and fortunately for listeners, this drunk has a lyric book that they'll want to spend some time with.