If you’ve spent significant time with Titus Andronicus, you can likely make a pretty good guess what one of its founding members’ solo projects would sound like. Liam the Younger has played guitar on each of Titus’ records, but he took time off from the band’s relentless touring to focus on his schooling. From the sounds of it, that was time well-spent. After distributing them only as CD-R’s and cassettes to his friends, Liam’s first two albums, After the Graveyard and Clear Skies Over Black River, are finally getting their proper releases from Underwater Peoples and A Learning Computer (both are available for pre-order from Underwater Peoples here).
While Titus cling tightly to Bruce Springsteen‘s hopeful ballads of life and labor in a run-down industrial town, Liam takes greater influence from the grainy, patriotic protest songs that begot not only the rock ‘n’ roll, but also the American ways of life and labor that the Boss was responding to. The songs are barren and honest like any other album recorded in a bedroom over the past ten or twenty years, so it says a lot that someone like Woody Guthrie should be his most immediately identifiable point of reference. But while he extends himself to jump from the wide-eyed retrospections of a Youth Lagoon to the powerful balladry of a Tallest Man On Earth, his most direct lineage is laid bare on After the Graveyard‘s “Ode to Then.” And if you’ve followed the melodramatic and historically inclined story of Titus Andronicus, then it should be no surprise that the second-biggest influence on the recordings is the reclusive, Anne Frank-chronicling Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum.
With Liam’s first studio-recorded album due this spring on Underwater Peoples, that’s a pretty favorable position to be in.