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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Another strong outing from Ted Leo

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
(Photo by Shawn Brackbill)
I tried playing Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' "The Brutalist Bricks" for my wife the other night. I thought she should like it. Leo has an immediately accessible rock and roll voice. The guitar is crisp and engaging. Songs like "Bottled in Cork," "Ativan Eyes" and "The Mighty Sparrow" have been stuck in my head for a week.

She wasn't quite ready for it.

This seems to be the case with all of Leo's music, not simply "The Brutalist Bricks," released Tuesday by Matador Records. While Leo has to be one of the most engaging performers on the punk rock scene, it's still punk rock. It's not for everyone.

With that said, this is an outstanding album from an outstanding band. Leo has great range of emotion with his voice, able to carry a mellow song like "One Polaroid a Day" or the in-your-face anger of "Woke Up Near Chelsea" or "Mourning in America."

It's at its best, tough, somewhere in the middle, such as at the end of "Bottled In Cork," where at least three different tracks of Leo's voice harmonize with one another. Not sure if he can pull this one off in the live show, but it sounds great on the album.

The guitars of Leo and bandmate James Canty are aggressive fun throughout the record. Chris Wilson holds down the trap set with skill, particularly on "Mourning in America." While Leo has been the only constant in the band's 11-year history, the current lineup works together with seeming ease.

It's just that lines like "There was a resolution pending on the United Nations floor/ In reference to the question what's a peacekeeping force for?" will never find their way onto a radio station near you. And that's OK. True punk has always been defined by attitude as much as sound. Leo has that attitude.

My spin: A-

There isn't a weak link on this album. The music will make you drum on the dashboard and the lyrics will make you think. It's exactly what we should ask of our music.

Fans of Leo or simply good indie bands should check this one out. It won't disappoint.

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