By Jacqueline Zegler

“A Productive Cough” opens with an eight-minute ballad that conjures up the whimsy of David Bowie, but with all of the intricate emotions that are signatures of punk rock.

However, this is not punk rock per usual, at least not for Titus Andronicus.

In a press release to fans on Jan. 4, the band wrote they were abandoning their unpredictable and brash themes, and were embarking on a more songwriter-focused album for “A Productive Cough.” The ballads would be the “cornerstones” of the album instead of getting lost as they had in previous albums, said Patrick Stickles, the lead singer and lyricist.

The band stayed true to their word. The songs are long, most clock in at over seven minutes. Each piece gives listeners another glimpse into the inner machinations of Stickles’ brain.  

Real Talk,” provides insight to Stickles’ view on the current socio-political climate of the United States, while “Above the Bodega (Local Business),” reveals his own shortcomings that only the local shopkeeper downstairs could understand.

Clever parallels also exist in songs like “(I’m) Like a Rolling Stone.” The analogy of the rolling stone is explored in the lyrics “With no direction home/Completely unknown/Just like Rolling Stones.” However in the next line, Stickles says how he feels like Mick Jagger and other members, both permanent and touring, of the classic rock band of the same name.  

But the lyricism of the album is not its only standout quality. The arrangement of the songs, which feature harmonicas, saxophones, tambourines and other unconventionally “punk rock” instruments, creates a unique feel. It breaks down the barriers of punk rock while still holding on to the genres classic roots.

If Titus Andronicus was reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen before, they are dripping in inspiration from the New Jersey rock icon now.  

“A Productive Cough,” is a transition album if there ever were one. It contains themes that are familiar to fans while still allowing for growth and expansion for the musicians.

To further shake things up, Titus Andronicus will be going on their first acoustic tour this spring, solidifying this as a new era for the band. Whether it is permanent or not is for the future to decide, but for this moment, let’s all revel in a good productive cough.  


Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Titus Andronicus’ Facebook page.

Jacqueline Zegler is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at

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