There’s no such thing as a perfect double album. The Beatles’ The White Album and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde have “Revolution 9” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” respectively. Certain tracks from Stevie Wonder on Songs in the Key of Life linger longer than they should. Tommy by the Who and The Wall by Pink Floyd, both occasionally sleepy, inspired countless pretentious admirers, the greatest sin of all. That’s part of their charm, though — the messy, boring, and inessential songs are a chance for the listener to take a deep breath, to recharge before “Visions of Johanna” or “Knocks Me Off My Feet” change your life, man.
The best double album is also one of the greatest albums ever, the Clash’s London Calling, but even it slips ever so slightly near the end. “The Card Cheat” and “Four Horsemen” are enjoyable, but they can’t keep with the stacked first half, with “Jimmy Jazz,” “Hateful,” and “Rudie Can’t Fail” finishing side one. It wasn’t The Only Band That Matters’ lone double album, though: At 144 minutes, follow-up Sandinista! is overstuffed and occasionally perplexing, but it’s mostly brilliant, dipping into genres as varied as punk, reggae and rockabilly. It’s a tribute to excess that isn’t excessive, the sound of a band throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks.
That’s the feeling I get listening to The Most Lamentable Tragedy, the new album from Titus Andronicus, America’s most essential contemporary rock band (IMHO). It’s a 29-song rock opera about mental illness that clocks in at 93 minutes; there’s a Pogues cover, two more parts of the “No Future” saga the band began on previous albums; and a straightforward version of “Auld Lang Syne.” Oh, and an intermission and “[seven seconds],” which is seven seconds of silence and some asshole’s favorite song on the album, an album that’s inspired, if you want to call it that, by frontman/Pitchfork troller Patrick Stickles’ experience with manic depression.