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Another Kind of Currency: Albert Camus and Titus Andronicus

Jonathan Skufca

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Courtesy of Clash

Guys, I swear I like other bands. There is just so much I have to say about Patrick Stickles and his band that I just need to write about it this week. Especially since I‰’m writing a paper for class about existentialism in science fiction, so I may as well write about one of the songs that finally helped me grasp concepts I had been struggling with as I went through high school. (Just so you know, if I was anywhere but AU for college, I‰’d probably be a Philosophy/History double major. Kudos to the BAE program for saving me from myself).

So this week, we‰’re going to look closely at a song from [email protected]‰’s first album The Airing of Grievances, “Albert Camus.‰Û

Being named after the famous French philosopher truly affects how we perceive the lyrics. One of the rawest punk songs I’d heard at the time, it really struck a chord with me and there was a point in, if I recall correctly, senior year when I listened to it on repeat going to and coming from my high school and actually deciphered much of what Patrick was saying without a lyric sheet (not an easy feat if you‰’re familiar with the song). So let‰’s begin with the first verse of the slow, somewhat calm beginning section. After a loud and fast opening, the band quiets down and Patrick borderline croons these lyrics:

Running around this run-down, one-horse town
One of these days, they’re gonna crucify me
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable it is to be
Young, dumb, and have lots of money.

While my hometown, and more specifically my school district, was quite middle- and lower-class, we did have some neighboring districts that had incredibly rich parents and we all saw them driving their nice cars in the seedy parts of town to buy their drugs. Everybody knew what they were doing there. And this seems to be what Patrick is talking about here—the upper class of society and how absolutely boring their lives are. I would not have changed my upbringing for the world. As I discussed in a column last semester, I love my hometown for making me who I am. However, it is the incredibly raw and intense final verse that I find the most interesting and thought-provoking, especially as a young cynic living in a town he thought he hated surrounded by people he merely tolerated (even though they were actually his best friends):

Lamb of God,
We think nothing of ourselves at all
So death, be not proud
‰Cause we don‰’t give a fuck about nothing
And we only want what we are not allowed

I will admit, at the time I had first listened to the song, I had not read anything that Camus wrote, but I was familiar with his philosophy, especially in that a few people had recommended him to me (pretty much sensing the type of person I was, and to an extent, still am). But, having read some of his stuff and having a better grasp of what he‰’s all about isn‰’t 100% necessary to understanding what Stickles is saying here—but they sure do help explain each other. When looking at this verse with an existential, absurdist eye, one can then see that Stickles agrees with Camus in that they both feel that life has no true purpose beyond existing and that we as humans are insignificant to the universe and thus should have no fear of death. Stickles also wants nothing more than purpose and immortality in an absurd world. Since both things are impossible, Stickles rages on, angry at the world—it is the only way that he thinks he could be truly happy. 

Courtesy of The Vancouver Sun.

One of my favorite things about listening to Titus Andronicus is how they have changed me to agree a little less with what they have to say. When I first heard “Albert Camus,‰” I was pretty much in total agreement with nearly everything said. But, in those days of endless repetition, I kind of saw that it was not really the worldview that I wanted. And while I do still harbor some feelings of anger to the world, I have dropped a bit of the cynicism I had in high school and actually want to attempt to make a difference in the world. I cannot guarantee that will happen (and often, OFTEN doubt myself) but I‰’d rather have a reason to whine than whine not having tried. And Patrick, if you‰’re reading this, know that you made a difference in the world by changing my life.

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Another Kind of Currency: Albert Camus and Titus Andronicus