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I want to realize too late I never should have left New Jersey
April 29, 2011 6:27 PM   Subscribe

New Jersey indie punks Titus Andronicus have released the video for No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future, the third song off their acclaimed Civil War themed concept album The Monitor. Its the second video from The Monitor, after last year's A More Perfect Union. The album, released last year, uses the Civil War as a loose metaphor for the New Jersey band living in Boston and dealing with growing up. It includes spoken quotes from Abe Lincoln and Walt Whitman (read by Craig Finn). The clip, directed by Tom Scharpling, is more traditional than his well-loved videos for Ted Leo and The New Pornographers and shows the band touring their beloved New Jersey.

Titus Andronicus have caused some minor controversy this year with attacking The Pogues for rudeness and turning in a shambolic cover of 'Birdhouse In Your Soul to AV Undercover. Want more? You can watch their Coachella performance, download a fan-made B-side collection or read about Patrick Stickles songwriting process.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (104 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Apologies for any messiness in the post. I love Titus Andronicus so much I woke up early on a Saturday to make sure the new video got some love. After a whole year of people telling me I'd love The Monitor I caved in and bought it and now I can barely wake up without listening to 'A More Perfect Union'. It's sprawling and shambolic and self-indulgent and tangential and referential and earnest and messy and that's why I love it so much. They quote The Dark Night. They reveal human truths and attack irony and decide that answer to all life's problems is drinking too much and being like Springsteen, or at least trying to pretend to be. It's the straight up bleeding heart best album of last year, or at least mine.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:29 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The album, released last year, uses the Civil War as a loose metaphor for the New Jersey band living in Boston and dealing with growing up.

600,000 Americans died in, nearly 4 million slaves were freed because of, the Civil War, and it still divides this country to this day. Using it as a metaphor for teen angst seems trivializing and extraordinarily narcissistic.
posted by orthogonality at 6:38 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I love Titus Andronicus, listen to them constantly, and have turned on many of my friends to their music. Having said that, I really did not care for this video. I know videos are always lip-synched, but it seemed so poorly done in this video that it kind of ruins it for me, especially when Patrick Stickles is shown screaming "You'll always be a loser" while on the vocal track he quietly speak-sings the same words. Maybe that was intentional, but I didn't care for it. But hey - it's a video, who cares? The music is fantastic anyway.

As an aside, I just saw them at the Riverside in Milwaukee, and a highlight of the show was when Stickles Eddie-Veddered his way up the speaker stacks to get on the balcony for this very song. But after completing his climb and realizing that there wasn't much of a way back down, he said "fuck it" and walked out through the balcony entrance and came back from backstage.
posted by hafehd at 6:44 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]



600,000 Americans died in, nearly 4 million slaves were freed because of, the Civil War, and it still divides this country to this day. Using it as a metaphor for teen angst seems trivializing and extraordinarily narcissistic.


It's not teen angst. It's twentysomethng angst. And no matter how you attack the band there's pretty much no way you can hate them as much as they (pretend?) to hate themselves:

There is a faceplate all brown and red that stretches across my mouth
It's worn for protection, nobody gets in and nobody gets out
I used to look myself in the mirror at the end of every day
But I took the one thing that made me beautiful and threw it away

posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:45 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree. Let's burn our copies of Catcher in the Rye while we're at it. That fucker dared to trivialize Robert Burns. Salinger, christ, what an asshole.
posted by jng at 6:45 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Pogues were rude?

The Pope is Catholic?

Man, really guys.
posted by gcbv at 6:46 PM on April 29, 2011


Having said that, I really did not care for this video.

Yeah, I think there's a bit of a parodox at the heart of it. Scharpling's videos always get heaps of attention and he's a friend from New Jersey so they'd go with him. But they couldn't do the winking comedy of his other two videos since it would cheapen the song. So they did this.

On a New Jersey note, I was born in New Jersey. Never spent much time there, but the rest of my family still makes fun of me for it sometimes. Since listening to Gaslight Anthem and Titus Andronicus (and Springsteen, of course) I've ended up wishing I'd spent MORE time there as a kid.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:47 PM on April 29, 2011


Oh man, I hadn't seen that New Pornos vid--that's effing great!
posted by Maaik at 6:50 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Titus Andronicus is a fantastic band, and the The Monitor has been on constant rotation in my house ever since I first heard it. It is so wonderfully assembled as an album, it really must listened to whole.

600,000 Americans died in, nearly 4 million slaves were freed because of, the Civil War, and it still divides this country to this day. Using it as a metaphor for teen angst seems trivializing and extraordinarily narcissistic.

What? I hate to contribute to a derail, but what stupid, simplistic comment to begin the thread with.
posted by cyphill at 6:54 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure... I think the monstrous self-indulgence of The Monitor is part of what gives it it's power. It's like the old poets calling on The Muses before they started a poem. Patrick Stickles is calling up the ghosts of the Civil War dead and the legacy of America's great poets to justify and explain his personal angst. There's one song that, if I read it right, compares a Civil War battle to getting bad reviews in the local press and having shitty band flyers. It's just so disproprotiante, and something about that is awesome (in the old sense).

I'm not really explaining it correctly, but by making everything so much bigger than it should he's both condemning himself and redeeming himself. I love things that put a larger 'overlay' over mundane events. Titus' influences The Hold Steady do that so much, with drug deals taking on Biblical importance. You can see it in Ulysses, where a mildly disappointing day for two people is actually an epic. It IS self-indulgent and self-important and that's what's great about it. They're raising their mundane little lives to epic significance and using that to comment on how insignificant they really are.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:01 PM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


600,000 Americans died in, nearly 4 million slaves were freed because of, the Civil War, and it still divides this country to this day. Using it as a metaphor for teen angst seems trivializing and extraordinarily narcissistic.

What? I hate to contribute to a derail, but what stupid, simplistic comment to begin the thread with.


I think I'll agree with orthogonality on this one.

A simplistic comment yes, not exactly stupid.

I was aware of this band superficially, and now that I've watched their videos, their live
performances, read them whine about how the Pogues didn't want to hang out with them, read
the lyrics that use analogies to their crappy band to battles fought in a divisive war.

Seriously, this band sucks.

Also, If I may make one superficial comment: Their attire and general sense of physique looks like VICE took a hipster shit and gave it instruments.
posted by gcbv at 7:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, If I may make one superficial comment: Their attire and general sense of physique looks like VICE took a hipster shit and gave it instruments.

Yeah, all the hipsters are into Civil War boozepunk. That's the big thing right now. Can't walk into a hipster club in Sydney without hearing yet another band sing Replacements style songs about Generals Sherman and Lee.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:12 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Their attire and general sense of physique looks like VICE took a hipster shit and gave it instruments.

Yeah, well that's cuz you don't know anything about New Jersey, man.
posted by rain at 7:19 PM on April 29, 2011


Saw Titus in Dallas a couple of weeks ago. They. Were. Awesome. There were about 90 people their and they played like they were headlining Reading.
posted by holdkris99 at 7:25 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saw the video this morning. Loved it if only for the reason that I would love to see that band in a mother fucking basement.

Instead I'm seeing them in June at the Wiltern. Which is still going to be cool, but, dude, tiny basement plus TA...
posted by eyeballkid at 7:42 PM on April 29, 2011


Hey so this band wanted to shoot a video so they went ALL AROUND NEW JERSEY IN ONE DAY and shot it with Tom Scharpling at the helm, and everyone involved seemed to have a blast. Song's good. -- Thus, cool vid in my book.

Oh my god, YOU WILL NEVER GUESS what just ran across my carpet. YOU. WILL. NEVER. GUESS!!
posted by Ike_Arumba at 7:42 PM on April 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


orthogonality: “600,000 Americans died in, nearly 4 million slaves were freed because of, the Civil War, and it still divides this country to this day. Using it as a metaphor for teen angst seems trivializing and extraordinarily narcissistic.”

gcbv: “I was aware of this band superficially, and now that I've watched their videos, their live performances, read them whine about how the Pogues didn't want to hang out with them, read the lyrics that use analogies to their crappy band to battles fought in a divisive war. Seriously, this band sucks.”

I cringed when I heard what this band was going to try to do – as someone who finds history interesting – but everyone was freaking out about The Monitor, so I braved it and listened through it about four times, just to give it a chance. Sadly, it was (to my ear) indeed quite awful.

Lovecraft In Brooklyn: “Yeah, all the hipsters are into Civil War boozepunk. That's the big thing right now. Can't walk into a hipster club in Sydney without hearing yet another band sing Replacements style songs about Generals Sherman and Lee.”

Oh, come off it. This is exactly what's hip right now. Pitchfork gave it a stellar review and a very high score, I remember. That means nothing about the album's quality, but you can't pretend that what they're doing is really far from the heart of what all the kids love now. 'Anything else' + 'boozepunk' has produced about umpteen billion bands in the last few years; and if boozepunk is what you love, well, hey, that's great for you.

Between Titus Andronicus and the Decembrists, along with a few other bands, I've had to come to terms with the unfortunate fact that people from my generation are severely conflicted. On the one hand, they think that history is really neat; on the other hand, they don't know shit about it.

And frankly that's how I feel about this generation's boozepunk, too. You call it 'Replacements style' boozepunk; and that's exactly right. We're just aping cool records we heard that we think are neat. But it's not really a thing we did; it's a thing we heard that was neat, and we hardly even take any ownership of it. There's not a thing we've done to earn it, nothing true we see in it. It feels empty. Just like a weird attempt to see a parallel to our teen angst in a massive conflict that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people – we're not capable of things that are new, and we aren't really worthy of our influences.

This is one of the reasons I sometimes get the feeling there isn't much left to do with rock music.
posted by koeselitz at 7:43 PM on April 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Between Titus Andronicus and the Decembrists, along with a few other bands, I've had to come to terms with the unfortunate fact that people from my generation are severely conflicted. On the one hand, they think that history is really neat; on the other hand, they don't know shit about it.

They're writing songs, not history reports. I've never heard anyone complain that Bowie doesn't know shit about space.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 8:00 PM on April 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


"Boozepunk"?

That's a thing?

Huh. This is what I think of when I think of "boozepunk".

Related: I am old.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:02 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Caroliner did this schtick way better
posted by generalist at 8:04 PM on April 29, 2011


On a New Jersey note, I was born in New Jersey. Never spent much time there, but the rest of my family still makes fun of me for it sometimes. Since listening to Gaslight Anthem and Titus Andronicus (and Springsteen, of course) I've ended up wishing I'd spent MORE time there as a kid.

Huh. Weird.

Maybe you have to grow up in New Jersey to understand how wanting to leave New Jersey is fundamental to growing up there, though I'll always love love it, though I'll always grit my teeth at Jersey jokes. I still get this deep ache in my bones from seeing Jersey geography. The valley below the Watchung Mountains. The way the Parkway seems to become this wild place up around exit 50-something and then you turn off a wide jughandle and are in dirty Paterson with the falls rising up between red brick.

I understand that's what they were trying to evoke here, but it doesn't quite work. Maybe because, for me, Jersey+Punk is smelling like cigarettes even though you don't smoke in the gravel parking lot outside some VFW hall that's wedged between a forest and a fierce highway. I wanted this to feel like a Jersey show--ska bands so big you couldn't fit them on stage, people making out on ancient sofas in Elk's hall lobbies, all the little 14-year-old shits with their hair glued up who Would Not Dance. I think I saw a show at that venue at Asbury Park. Only thing was, it was nearly empty, just me and a handful of friends and too many bands of nearly-middle-aged guys and their street teams/wives and that really let you see the rotting architecture.

It's close, but not quite there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:15 PM on April 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


I wish I were a teen in angst again, just for this band.
posted by JLovebomb at 8:19 PM on April 29, 2011


Your favourite band sucks.

I came into this thread to comment about how much it sucks.

and to complete the threadshitting trifecta....

Is this something I would have to be an American to understand?
posted by mek at 8:22 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


holdkris99: "There were about 90 people their and they played like they were headlining Reading."

I saw them a few years ago at my college town and this was my experience as well. The music didn't (and still doesn't) interest me, but they put on a hell of a show.
posted by yaymukund at 8:23 PM on April 29, 2011


Is this something I would have to be an American to understand?

Streetlight Manifesto think so
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:27 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh my god, YOU WILL NEVER GUESS what just ran across my carpet. YOU. WILL. NEVER. GUESS!!

You know what? I think...I think I might be able to guess. Just tell me this: was it an animal?

Hey, Mike? Would you open that door a crack? Thank you. I'm telling you, I gotta make some changes around here.
posted by Ian A.T. at 8:27 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


First, I would certainly give a serious listen to the music of any band named "Fierce Highway".

Secondly, if you like to be aghast at bands making light of historical horrors, don't click here.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:37 PM on April 29, 2011


Yeeeah . . . so I just showed this to the husband, who grew up in Fairfield, and without prompting he told me that he feels like it doesn't really capture anything particularly Jerz (especially Jersey show-ish) in the vibe. Part of that is the places they picked--Rutgers and Jersey City and Asbury Park are kinda the greatest hits of NJ. But it's a surprisingly shallow interpretation of the state from people who grew up there. It feels like it could be anywhere. Reading over their lyrics, I find them kind of similarly . . . unresonant. They name drop Somerville and Glen Rock (and, uh, Springsteen? I don't think I know anyone from NJ under 40 who cares about Springsteen one way or the other), but don't really seem to have much to say about the experience of growing up there. This song comes the closest, but still, yeah, I don't know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:44 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


hey name drop Somerville and Glen Rock (and, uh, Springsteen? I don't think I know anyone from NJ under 40 who cares about Springsteen one way or the other)

Brian Fallon?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:45 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ike: No idea. Did it have a cape?
posted by Victorvacendak at 8:47 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


YES!! it was a mouse wearing a cape!!
posted by Ike_Arumba at 9:21 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The guy sings like he's got something disgusting caught in his throat and is about to cough it up into his hipsterbeard.
posted by dydecker at 9:36 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread where we rave about how fucking awesome Titus Andronicus is?
Cuz I am down for that.

How such a blistering roar comes out of such a wiry man with such a full beard truly baffles me.
And they have one of the best live shows going right now.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:37 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


*dances around his room in his underwear singing along to A More Perfect Union*

*like he does every morning*
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:40 PM on April 29, 2011


Hey Lovecraft In Brooklyn, just fyi, but any time you find that you have 25% of the comments in a thread with more than 30 comments, especially if it's one of your own FPPs, you might want to consider stepping back a bit.
posted by dersins at 9:53 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Your Favorite Band's Choice of Historical Metaphor Sucks.

For all those people who are upset the kids these days don't appreciate history properly in rock music enough, you may also want to avoid Iron Maiden's ENTIRE 30+YEAR catalog as well.

The Rock N Roll New Jersey of Springsteen, et al, exists invite same universe as the Rock N Roll London of Ray Davies. I'm afraid to visit London in real life because I'm sure to be disappointed by the fact that it isn't all Waterloo Sunset and Muswell Hillbillies.
posted by KingEdRa at 9:56 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugh."In the," not "invite."
posted by KingEdRa at 9:58 PM on April 29, 2011


Is there a beeaaaaan in this thread that hasn't been plate-ed?
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:59 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread where we rave about how fucking awesome Titus Andronicus is?

I think it's the thread where we're discussing this band's qualities.

Qualities which are, in my opinion, lacking.

How such a blistering roar comes out of such a wiry man with such a full beard truly baffles me.

When I listen to Bob Mould on early Husker Du records, I think about a blistering roar, without the beard.

Or Ian Mackaye.

Or the vocals screaming tumult of Yasuko O from melt banana.

This man from this band, not so much.

Also, it's fairly obvious, I think to say, that the drummer isn't so great. He doesn't match the supposed intensity of the music, and it sounds as much.

Also, they suck.
posted by gcbv at 10:00 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's fascinating. Youre fascinating.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:05 PM on April 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sometimes you have to be a little self indulgent if you're going to produce something evocative. Is the album's metaphor perfect? Nope. Does comparing a divided nation to a conflicted individual mean that an entire generation doesn't know shit about history, or that rock is dead because everything that can be done has been done before? Again, not so much.

Seriously, if your gripe is that the overarching metaphor of the album is a sloppy generalization, those probably aren't the criticisms you want to make. You don't have to like the album. That doesn't say anything about those of us who do. And I do. A lot.

(Full disclosure: I am, for just a split second, in this video. They did not lip synch at the site I was at, but played with no amplification. Even though the band was cold and wiped and running late, they were curt and friendly, to the point of having us all sing along. The video isn't mind blowing, but I don't like the band any less for it, and nothing will come between my boyfriend and listening to The Best Show. Also, Mr. Stickles's sister is really nice.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:06 PM on April 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, they suck.

Suck is an awfully strong word for it. It's... it's ok, I guess. I don't love it, but it's better than 99.9% of what's on (commercial) radio these days (which, admittedly, may not be saying much). And according to some folks in the thread, it sounds like they might be much better live. I'm totally willing to believe that.

My only real objection is the video--it just looks like it was shot as part of one of those douche-y hipster Wieden + Kennedy Levi's campaigns.
posted by dersins at 10:10 PM on April 29, 2011


Eh. After listening to them a bit more, I suspect they would've been one of those bands that would've been OMG SO IMPORTANT to me if I were in my 20s. And from Joisey.

But I'm not.

I wouldn't say they suck. They just don't move me. That's OK. I'm glad they make other people happy.

FWIW, here's my nominee for the best indie punk band from New Jersey. (Excluding Yo La Tengo, who belong to everyone.) :)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:11 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


gcbv- Bob Mould, Ian MacKaye, and Yasuko O? Hardcore, hardcore, and noise. Is it possible that you just like a different genre of music entirely?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:13 PM on April 29, 2011


Is this the thread where I say how awesome Phish is?
posted by KingEdRa at 10:16 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Nina Simone.

Roscoe Holcomb.

Captain Beefheart.

All have a blistering roar, regardless of a perceived genre.

I like all kinds of sound.
posted by gcbv at 10:17 PM on April 29, 2011


Captain Beefheart.

All have a blistering roar, regardless of a perceived genre.

I think he has more of an unctuous rattle, myself.
posted by mykescipark at 10:20 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I had never heard of Titus Andronicus until I saw them live in Milwaukee a few weeks ago.

They sorta rocked my face sideways, and then off completely.

Also, we ran into them manning their merch booth afterward and they were very sweet. According to their price list, 7" singles were 5 dollars, but love was free.
posted by Windigo at 10:23 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is this the thread where I say how awesome Phish is?

Such a thread does not exist.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 10:28 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


600,000 Americans died in, nearly 4 million slaves were freed because of, the Civil War, and it still divides this country to this day. Using it as a metaphor for teen angst seems trivializing and extraordinarily narcissistic.

Rock and roll from Jackie Brenston singing "Rocket 88" at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis 60 years ago onward is a vehicle for narcissism and angst, teen and otherwise. "V-8 motor and this modern design/Black convertible top and the gals don't mind."
posted by blucevalo at 10:30 PM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


God damn it, BitterOldPunk. If I have to say it, I will - your recommendations mean a lot to me, particularly since you got Rory into the oh-so-awesome Double Nickels. So, for the love of god, please, fix your fucking link so I can know who the hell you're talking about.
posted by koeselitz at 10:55 PM on April 29, 2011


fix your fucking link

Oops. Sorry about that. Posting from my phone and borked that link.

Here is the correct link.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:03 PM on April 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Although the video did not tell me anything I didn't know about New Jersey (and I know nothing about New Jersey other than fuck the Newark Greyhound station), I liked the song.

But anyway, MetaFilter is for judgment. Carry on.
posted by brennen at 11:18 PM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The concept of the video is simple: showcasing New Jersey from south to north in one day, touring band style. Not everything has to be La Dolce Vita. Great music video. (Also a fan of Tom Scharpling.)
posted by Jan Coztas at 12:25 AM on April 30, 2011


I want to say I am a huge fan, seen them a few times in DC now. Thanks for this post.

read them whine about how the Pogues didn't want to hang out with them

That's simplifying things more than a bit. And at least the first DC show, Titus seemed a lot more interested in being on the stage than the Pogues did. (Still enjoyed the Pogues, but man did it seem like a chore to them for parts of the show.)
posted by inigo2 at 4:13 AM on April 30, 2011


New Jersey's The Misfits may have long ago descended into self-parody but they still put out those first few records as well.

/for your consideration
posted by stinkycheese at 4:14 AM on April 30, 2011


Damnit. Now I'm tempted to buy tickets for their next DC show...
posted by inigo2 at 4:19 AM on April 30, 2011


Pffft. I was into Titus Andronicus when it was still a play.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:49 AM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


Since when is it considered an okay thing to come into a thread and just gratuitously shit on a band? I thought the general policy was that it's cool to say you don't like something, but once you go to the point of trying to make other people feel bad for listening, then you've crossed a line.

I mean, lecturing "young angst" bands for being silly and over the top? Dudes and dudettes! You're missing the whole point of being a young angst band! The idea is to be as gratuitously overemotional as you can get, to serve as a kind of convenient cathartic beacon for young suffering souls, and then as they get older to work as a kind of anchor, where you can risk listening to maturer and maturer music, coming back to young angst when you need a breather.

Also, live shows. There's something so satisfying about being young and going to a high-energy concert where the whole theme is, "Hey, other young people also worry way too much about things!" I've not gotten into Titus Andronicus much, but I've seen my own young angst New Jersey band, Streetlight Manifesto, twice, once at Bamboozle (including an acoustic set) and then once at the smaller Trocadero in Philadelphia, and it's such a goddamn satisfying sort of show. It doesn't matter if the lyrics are...

me and mr. dylan on the ride home
we had a heart to heart about life
but neither him or me could decide for ourselves
if we wanted to outlive that night

...because what matters is being catchy and sad and fast. (One of Streetlight's horn players teaches/taught band at a NJ high school, so when I was in high school, it was nearly impossible not to know them if you were a band geek — and I submit that's a good thing.)

Also also, re: New Jersey, I sometimes find it very difficult to imagine growing up anywhere that isn't New Jersey. It's such a deeply weird, beautiful place. It doesn't surprise me anymore that George Clinton and P-Funk started in Plainfield, NJ; the state's beauty isn't always as vast or profound as, say, Utah's, but it's got something that, for lack of a better phrase, provokes the imagination. There were dragons in the woods.

The poet Stephen Dunn put it thusly: "New Jersey’s gift to its poets … is that it’s a place of many places, essentially amorphous, freeing us to look at the world." Maybe I'm biased because I like Dunn and love Jersey, but I think that's a beautiful, true sentiment.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:00 AM on April 30, 2011 [8 favorites]


Since when is it considered an okay thing to come into a thread and just gratuitously shit on a band?

I'm of the persuasion that it's just as equally offensive to gratuitously praise a band, especially when other people find them sorely lacking, pretentious, self-involved to the point of parody, and reeking of self-importance when their final output is anything but truly engaging.

I thought it was an "okay thing" to honestly talk about my opinion in a thread, because that's essentially what the dialectical method is about, right?
posted by gcbv at 6:10 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know that it's possible to express negative sentiments without turning it into an attack on the things you're expressing negative sentiment about? I spent like six years on the Internet before I realized that it was possible, and I'm wondering if maybe y'all guys haven't heard about it yet. It's all the rage in, like, places where people want to have conversations that don't immediately degenerate.

Respectfully, gcbv, your dialecticals kind of break down into, "they're pretentious", "this guy can't sing", "I know lots of music, let me namedrop some for you, and that means that I know objectively what is and isn't good". Only you said it repeatedly, and then you tried to use some "clever and creative" insults that kind of fell flat and made me wonder why you care so much about not liking this band.

it's just as equally offensive to gratuitously praise a band

But clearly you seem to think that liking things is also a matter of disliking other things, that if you talk about things you like it's just as important to talk about things you dislike. Whereas I kind of feel like it's okay to gratuitously praise things, because when you like something you have a reason to care about that something. Why do you care about this band that you hate? Why can't you simply not care and spend your time being positive about something that you enjoy?
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:19 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why can't you simply not care and spend your time being positive about something that you enjoy?

Because there is no positive without a negative, sir.

I don't know if you caught this, but I'm fully aware that it's just my opinion. I know well that my
opinion on some random Titanasaraus Rex band doesn't stop others from liking them, doesn't stop them from creating and existing. It's perfectly okay.

There is no objectivity in my statements, really. It's fully subjective. Other people obviously like this band. It's not a big deal.

You, however, are now being critical of what I'm saying, bringing up supposedly flat-falling jokes, my need to "namedrop" (a commonly pejorative term), and then telling me how I SHOULD think about something?

Let's be honest: That's fairly negative.

Also, there's a note under the comment box about talking about the thread, and not the members of this site. Note the note, sir.
posted by gcbv at 6:52 AM on April 30, 2011


Also, they suck.

I believe that calling out thread-shitters has always been fair game here.
posted by jeffen at 6:59 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saying "your favorite band sucks," when the subject of the post is, in fact, someone's favorite band and how totally rad and awesome they are, isn't really threadshitting, though. And saying "your favorite band sucks" and then backing it up with specific reasons and multiple counterexamples, as gcbv did, is definitely not threadshitting-- it's participating in the conversation. Threadshitting would be saying "this post sucks." Threadshitting might also be trying to silence someone whose opinion differs from yours by calling them a threadshitter.
posted by dersins at 7:41 AM on April 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a Scharpling fan, though I don't really get most indie rock. I like Scharpling's scrappy, against-the-odds commitment to defending New Jersey, though. So maybe I'll try to give this album a listen.

Also this thread made me look up the Shakespeare play Titus Andronicus, which turns out to be a B-movie story about Romans raping and killing each other.
posted by Victorvacendak at 8:03 AM on April 30, 2011


the Shakespeare play .... which turns out to be a B-movie story about... raping and killing ....

I take it you'd never read any Shakespeare before, ever?
posted by dersins at 8:29 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't remember a lot of I Spit On Your Grave-style rape-revenge stories from other Shakespeare plays? Nobody raped Hamlet.
posted by Victorvacendak at 8:30 AM on April 30, 2011


Also also, re: New Jersey, I sometimes find it very difficult to imagine growing up anywhere that isn't New Jersey. It's such a deeply weird, beautiful place. It doesn't surprise me anymore that George Clinton and P-Funk started in Plainfield, NJ; the state's beauty isn't always as vast or profound as, say, Utah's, but it's got something that, for lack of a better phrase, provokes the imagination. There were dragons in the woods.

The poet Stephen Dunn put it thusly: "New Jersey’s gift to its poets … is that it’s a place of many places, essentially amorphous, freeing us to look at the world." Maybe I'm biased because I like Dunn and love Jersey, but I think that's a beautiful, true sentiment.


I'm with you, Rory. I just think that this video really, really fails at capturing any of this, despite the fact that their stated goal was to teach about New Jersey at the very beginning of this video. In fact, I'd say in some ways that The Sopranos reflects a more nuanced portrait of the state, even if the generalized impression that non-Jerseyans from it is over-simplified.

Here are some things that better capture New Jersey: As for the band, the song, and the concept of their album, I'm a lyrics person, and I still feel that the lyrics on this album (I haven't looked up any others) are largely really obvious and uninventive--unsophisticated in concept and execution, I guess. It's funny, because someone upthread mentioned David Bowie--how no one criticizes Bowie's science. But Bowie wasn't writing science, he was doing a 70s, gender-bendy, glam rock take on Golden Era science fiction. It was a really sophisticated idea, but one which he never states baldly in his songs, which means on the surface they're all about silly things like space ships (thought hey belie a complex familiarity with the source material he's riffing on) and then you realize he's talking about sex and dying, and sprinkling stuff about 70s British class relations in there, too. We know that Titus Andronicus is using the Civil War as a metaphor for leaving New Jersey because they tell us that in exactly so many words. Of course they don't have a very sophisticated or nuanced view of the civil war--their view of their upbringing, and subsequent divorce from that, isn't even particularly sophisticated or nuanced.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:38 AM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


The New Pornographers video, however, is awesome. Hey look, it's Sam Weiss from Fringe as Dan Bejar! Awesome.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:51 AM on April 30, 2011


Seriously, this band sucks.

Also, If I may make one superficial comment: Their attire and general sense of physique looks like VICE took a hipster shit and gave it instruments.


Saying "your favourite band sucks and they look like shit" isn't really a prime example of participating in a conversation and saying that your favourite bands are BETTER isn't either.
posted by jeffen at 8:57 AM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Growing up in NJ and going to/playing shows was the best. diy4lyfe

hi, other former nj scene kids!
posted by defenestration at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought it was hilarious that the singer says something like "We're gonna show you the REAL New Jersey--not like that Sopranos bullshit!" And then the very first shot is of the band playing in the woods for 18 seconds holding a sign that says Pine Barrens. Epic fail when you consider one of the most famous episodes of the Sopranos is called Pine Barrens and it spends the bulk of its time showing more of the Pine Barrens than they do in this video.
posted by dobbs at 9:17 AM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, that bit confused me because the pine barrens has pine trees? I've camped in them. They looked nothing like that. Not saying they didn't find an oak grove nestled in the pine barrens or anything, but that seemed weird.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:19 AM on April 30, 2011


I'm voting sucks.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:07 PM on April 30, 2011


Here are some things that better capture New Jersey:

/Insert lots of things longer than a 5 minute 43 second song and music video.
posted by inigo2 at 12:16 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


/Insert lots of things longer than a 5 minute 43 second song and music video.

Right. Well, I wracked my brain for songs that I thought better nail the feeling for Jersey-longing, but they were either all by bands I don't particularly like (Fountains of Wayne) or written by people not from New Jersey. Like, this song is redolent of a longing for a sort of suburban adolescence you find pretty commonly in the Garden State (and I think better nails the alcoholism and working class attitudes that Titus Adronicus was trying to invoke, but more successfully), but the Elected is from California. Ditto this song, both in successfully invoking some of these feelings (it's so close to the story of a lot of South Jerseyans I know) and in the musicians being from Cali.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:21 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never heard anyone complain that Bowie doesn't know shit about space.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 5:00 PM on April 29 [17 favorites +] [!]

I literally Laughed Out Loud.
posted by Kloryne at 12:38 PM on April 30, 2011


Listen, I like Titus Andronicus. I like this video, I plan on buying this album.

But can we please, please stop attaching the modifier 'punk' to anything we want to give authenticity to? It actually serves to make everything seem a little to precious and turn people off right away. Just because they make a little musical reference to the Dropkick Murphys doesn't make them punk. Call it hard-edged indie, call it screamo, call it whatever the fuck you want, but stop making punk stand in for "dude, it's totally from the streets"

And as for the Civil War metaphor being " trivializing and extraordinarily narcissistic." screw you, man. Wouldn't you rather see an ambitious failure than a mediocre success?
posted by lumpenprole at 2:48 PM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


But can we please, please stop attaching the modifier 'punk' to anything we want to give authenticity to? It actually serves to make everything seem a little to precious and turn people off right away.

Actually, I believe it's the Schlittle or whatever his name lead singer/signpost guy who I've read these interviews with who is contextualizing "punk" around his own band.

So take it up with lead singer man.

Wouldn't you rather see an ambitious failure than a mediocre success?

No.

Ambitious failures are often surrounded by ridiculous hubris and self-importance. Which is grody. Mediocre successes are usually systemic of people who know what they're talking about, and create art within their bounds, because they tend to know their own limits of understanding and relationship to the other.

Mediocre successes also have a tendency to reveal themselves with time to have insight and layers beyond their initial effects.
posted by gcbv at 2:59 PM on April 30, 2011


I don't remember a lot of I Spit On Your Grave-style rape-revenge stories from other Shakespeare plays? Nobody raped Hamlet.

OH SHIT SON IT IS ON...by which I mean, funny you should mention Hamlet, because along with Titus, it's a rare example of Shakespeare writing in the revenge tragedy subgenre, which was tremendously popular during the period. Hamlet's an unusual example because the characters are more three-dimensional and the plot a little more ambiguous than in most plays of the type, but it still definitely belongs.

Most other revenge tragedies are jam-packed with over-the-top violence and revenge. One of the best-known ones, for example--Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy--includes an on-stage murder disguised as a play within the play and the main character biting out his own tongue so as to not reveal any more of his plot.

Then there's the Jacobean The Revenger's Tragedy, probably by Thomas Middleton, which includes charming scenes such as one of the villains being tricked into kissing the skull of the woman he had poisoned because she wouldn't submit to his lust. The skull itself is poisoned, and the poison dissolves the villain's teeth and tongue before killing him. (Which doesn't stop him from making a couple of speeches before he dies, however.) There's a film of it starring Christopher Eccleston, if you're interested.

This kind of thing is all through plays of the period. If anything, Shakespeare's violence is tame by comparison.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:01 PM on April 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


gbcv: His name is Stickles
posted by eyeballkid at 3:12 PM on April 30, 2011


eyeballkid: He doesn't give a shit.
posted by inigo2 at 3:18 PM on April 30, 2011


Just watched this and it reminded me of this thread.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:29 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The fact that I'm being presented with a choice between ambitious failure and mediocre success is probably the reason why I expressed pessimism about the current state of rock music.
posted by koeselitz at 3:31 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


So take it up with lead singer man.

Actually, I'd love to. He seems like the kind of guy who'd be open to a good heated discussion over adult beverages. Although he'd have to get past me making fun of his gravitas beard. Doesn't negate my argument, though. Just because he does it, doesn't make it okay for you or anyone else.

And your argument about ambitious failure's vs. mediocre successes is well taken. It's true that there's a very fine line between ambitious failure and "I'm doing this for publicity." I guess it's in the eyes of the beholder.

I'll just tap out by saying that I'm one of those guys who only like "Into The Unknown" and find the rest of the Bad Religion albums too pedestrian. But I guess I understand if your mileage varies.

That being said implying that you can't reference the Civil War in a modern work without making a Ken Burns doc is ludicrous.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:49 PM on April 30, 2011


koeselitz: I obviously disagree with you about Titus Andronicus as an ambitious failure. On both counts, actually. I don't see The Monitor as particularly ambitious, mostly because the Civil War context never gets in the way of what I do enjoy about the album. I also don't consider it a failure sonically, but that's mostly because I don't consider it anything but a quality garage rock record that makes me happy when I'm cranking it up to 13.

Also, I love The Decemberists for many of the reasons that people who don't enjoy their music on MeFi single out. They are precious. They are twee. But, as has been pointed out upthread, Colin Meloy isn't writing about history (unless you count the goofy "Valerie Plame"), but writing fables with a more romantic bent toward faux historical flourishes.

And I rarely get in the fray in music threads on MeFi anymore. It's one thing to offer an opinion about a band that you dislike (like BOP's comment above about just not feeling the Titus Andronicus record or your comments about how you're turned off by the sloppy historical aspect (something I find more charm in), or even ortho taking offense to the Civil War even being used at all. It's quite another to feel it necessary to expend the energy sniping at a band that you don't care for over the course of the thread and feeling the need to answer every fan's praise with your own hostile retorts. It just makes me not want to bother with reading. It says less, "I don't enjoy their music," and more "OMFG LOOK AT ME FUCKING LOOK AT MEthis band sucks"
posted by eyeballkid at 4:07 PM on April 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


And somewhere I lost a parenthesis.
posted by eyeballkid at 4:09 PM on April 30, 2011


Just because he does it, doesn't make it okay for you or anyone else.

Pretty sure that the term "punk" allows me to use it how I like to use it.

D. Boon, a fellow who was in so many ways my hero, said:

"Punk is whatever
we made it to be."

So it's okay to call anything Punk or not punk, or Jellybeans, or Magic Pony 5000, or the History
of Untamed Milk.


So it's also perfectly okay for me to say this band is as Punk as a band that gets to open for the Pogues, and then whines about it to music journalists.

Punk is a funny thing. I have a funny view about it. I think having a band and deciding not to play in front of banners that say "nike" or "cuervo gold presents...indie rock!" is pretty punk rock. I think punk is about being happy to play music, and trying not so hard to make a profession out of it, as much as working hard to do what you love.

This Skittles lead singer guy used the term "business model" when discussing his band in the Pogues interview. That instantly made me dislike his ideas, because it goes against my idea of
what "punk" is.

But you may disagree. You may come from another type of punk. The first punk band you liked might have been on Geffen records. That's a different kind of punk than me.
posted by gcbv at 4:16 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


But you may disagree. You may come from another type of punk. The first punk band you liked might have been on Geffen records. That's a different kind of punk than me.

Yeah, that might hurt if I was anybody else. You really don't want to start a measuring contest on this with me.

Sure You can use punk however you want. I can also call you ridiculous for doing so.

I don't mean to categorize Titus as an ambitious failure, I was just making a point about artists stretching their subject matter. I think they're perfectly successful at what they're doing. Again, I like them. And I'm kind of sorry I derailed this so heavily. They're a good band. They're just about as punk as I am Mormon.
posted by lumpenprole at 4:26 PM on April 30, 2011


Yeah, that might hurt if I was anybody else.

Let me clarify that: I'm not trying to hurt anyone or be a snob about exposure and/or how you
discovered forms of musical rebellion or music that stimulated you to see things differently.

It was more of a generational exposure comment.
posted by gcbv at 4:34 PM on April 30, 2011


It was more of a generational exposure comment.

Yeah? Well let me put it this way. I saw The Minutemen live. And I'll tell you what Mike Watt told me one time after a Firehose show. "If you ain't stickin it to the man, it ain't punk"
posted by lumpenprole at 4:46 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been pretty bored with Titus since they started popping up on the alt-punk radar a couple years ago, and the Civil War thing seemed more like justifying their facial hair than a coherent musical statement.

But I will say that when our next-door neighbor got us to go out to see them, they were surprisingly good and a lot more fun than the schmindie that their records are. Even if this video seems kinda blah, go ahead and catch them live — the precious lyrics are too hard to make out, and they rock hard.
posted by klangklangston at 4:59 PM on April 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


The problem isn't "your favorite band sucks". It's the implied "and you suck for liking them". The amount of vitriol leveled against a band that isn't getting much publicity and means alot to people is just depressing. I wouldn't have posted about these guys if I didn't feel a personal connection to them. I joined this site because of a good music thread. If that thread had been people just shitting on My Favorite Band, I probably would have got angry and stayed away. As it is, this is making me rethink my other planned music posts.

But as Titus say, "It's still us against them, its still us against them, its still us against them, and they're winning".

I also think they sum up some of the problems with this kind of discourse on the last song on the album, 'The Battle of Hampton Roads":

Is there a human alive that can look themselves in the face

Without winking?
Or say what they mean without drinking?
Or believe in something without thinking, "What if somebody doesn't approve?"
Is there a soul on this Earth that isn't too frightened to move?

posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:20 PM on April 30, 2011


As for the 'punk' label, it's pretty elastic. The guys I listen to like Gaslight Anthem (kinda modern rock) and Frank Turner (pretty much folk) get the 'punk' label attached to them too, and they're softer than Titus. It makes sense to me.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:22 PM on April 30, 2011


I just have to say, this thread was fascinating: debating the essence of New Jersey, the meaning of punk, teen angst, gravitas beards, the subjective quality of music. This was way more far-ranging discussion than I thought a simple music video would engender.

Oh, and a mouse with a cape.

God bless Metafilter.
posted by jng at 11:15 PM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


And as someone who grew up in New Jersey and attending live shows here (fond memories of hanging from the rafters at The Stone Pony), I respected their efforts to capture the state. Anyone who grew certainly related to how this arbitrarily defined geographic region can create this perverse sort of self-loathing pride. It's hard to explain. But I agree, they couldn't have chosen more cliched Jersey spots. For me, this doesn't really capture the Jersey I know.

I liked the chantalong at the end very much though. I could see myself enjoying their live shows. I just wish they could have cut the sermonizing at the start of the video. I might have enjoyed it more.
posted by jng at 11:41 PM on April 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry: Anyone who grew certainly related to how this arbitrarily=Anyone who grew up here can certainly relate to how this arbitrarily...

My apologies, one too many birthday parties tonight...
posted by jng at 11:43 PM on April 30, 2011


I don't get how and why you judge a band by how smart their public comments are or some apples to oranges comparison about some older band's barely reminiscent style. I like Titus BECAUSE i like the Pogues. All they should hate each other too. because they should hate everything so they can keep fueling this music making.
posted by hirelearning at 7:00 AM on May 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


some older band's barely reminiscent style.


that's the thing, really.
posted by gcbv at 7:48 AM on May 1, 2011


I don't get how and why you judge a band by how smart their public comments are or some apples to oranges comparison about some older band's barely reminiscent style. I like Titus BECAUSE i like the Pogues. All they should hate each other too. because they should hate everything so they can keep fueling this music making.

Yeah I should clarify that despite obviously being a huge Titus fan I love and still love The Pogues. I think Titus come out of a really chummy scene, both musically (the whole indie/punk/folk/Unified Scene thing) and geographically (Springsteen always supporting younger bands). The Pogues aren't really part of it, and probably don't give a fuck if you're not Nick Cave or Tom Waits or someone on that level.

But that's just a theory.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:14 AM on May 1, 2011


I grew up in Jersey punk. I lived and breathed the idea of getting out and I did- I'm all the way across the world now. I've traveled the globe. But New Jersey has a perverse way of getting under your skin and I've never been able to stop missing it. I doubt I'll ever settle down there, but a band like Titus Andronicus captures the idea perfectly- "I've been looking for a new New Jersey".

Springsteen might be nationally popular, but only those beat up Jersey dudes really know what he was getting at.
posted by GilloD at 6:41 PM on May 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Dunno if anyone is still reading this, but I found a good old article from Nitsuh Abebe:

A little while after I first heard those announcements, I went over to the next stage to see a set by Titus Andronicus-- a band that's billed as passionate, energetic, rabble-rousing. Which they are: They drew the kind of feel-good, communal excitement out of the crowd that's perfect for a festival, and their set wound up being one of the highlights of my weekend. Maybe it was just the power of suggestion, but it got me thinking about how much their ethos-- that shaggy vigor-- is valuable for its own sake, just as an aesthetic, and how much their air of righteousness is about something specific. There's something about the band that seems to contain a huge moral streak, something that can push the same buttons as a great safety announcement. The announcements want to take something you might see as mundane (attending an indie music festival) and remind you that there are still opportunities for earnest moral righteousness. You can be selfish and moblike, or you can protect one another and make sure everyone has fun. Titus Andronicus and their Civil War references seem to want to do the same: Take the fact of being a young person who's doing generally okay and paint it as a moral battle, an open conflict, an opportunity for righteousness and bravery. The opposite of diffidence.

That's a strange thing to type, because lots of music tries that, or accomplishes it accidentally: A song about a break-up can find a moral crux every bit as much as a song that uses the Civil War to underline it. Isn't all art working to make you feel alive to the world in some way, awake to the possibilities of it? Titus make it awfully explicit, though-- they make it an open question. Start thinking along those lines, and suddenly it makes a lot more sense that their last record is scattered with quotes from songs by Billy Bragg, a singer with a pretty similar project. Bragg is English, a folk singer who started in a punk moment; his songs always wanted to hop back and forth between socialism, politics, love, and sex, making them reflect off one another until new haircuts, weddings, and breakups became gestures in a much bigger social landscape. And he's an earnest moralist, too-- sometimes a little too much so, but you tend to know he means well.

One difference, I suppose, is that Bragg often wound up doing what academics would call "problematizing" his subject matter: taking something mundane and poking at the conflicts and confusions inside it. Titus Andronicus songs seem to be all about the desire for the opposite-- getting over complexity and confusion and finding a clear enemy to be fought. Which is more like the kid who wants to sit in the front seats and challenge the teacher on everything in the lesson plan.

6.

Back home, a little reading turns up a quote from Titus frontman Patrick Stickles:

"In trying to invoke the spirit of Billy Bragg, it was in the hope that people who didn't agree with our agenda would still be pumped up."

This might be a strange thing to say, or an awesome and generous and trusting one: That you're just trying to deliver the spirit and energy of righteousness, maybe even in a way that draws together people with different agendas about what righteousness actually is. So there were all the people up front at the festival, shouting along with him-- "it's still us against them!"-- and maybe adapting the outlines of his particular "us" and "them" to fit properly with their own. If we all talked in detail about what we thought was "good," we'd probably argue. But we could still walk away like a group invigorated about finding it.

It's in that same interview, though, that Stickles lays out where the record ends, where his character finds himself:

"He doesn't know what he stands for, but he knows what he can be opposed to. He realizes that if he'd succeeded in killing all the bad guys, where would he go from there?... It ends with us pleading the enemy to stay with us forever, lest our lives be completely meaningless."

In other words, he's built himself for sniping from the back of the room, built himself for the underdog's privacy and opposition-- and isn't quite sure what he'd say, or even if it would matter, if someone pulled him up to the front.

posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:18 PM on May 3, 2011


Dunno if anyone is still reading this

I am! Thanks for the article, interesting stuff.

"There's something about the band that seems to contain a huge moral streak, something that can push the same buttons as a great safety announcement."

It's interesting how that's worded, because at each of the shows I've been to, Stickles does a little speech about how everyone's there to have fun, and to be safe, etc etc. (Which I guess sounds a little generic as I describe it; it's all in the delivery.)
posted by inigo2 at 8:22 AM on May 4, 2011


for anyone who isn't a hater, Tom Scharpling will release a video of the band playing A More Perfect Union if this video gets 100,000 views
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:54 PM on May 24, 2011


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