The Hype: It's been three years since the last full-length effort from Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. And while plenty of that is due to the crumbling of their former label, Touch and Go, Leo and company have not stopped playing their propulsive, punk-indebted tunes all over the country. Their new album, the Brutalist Bricks (released March 9), finds the band on indie hit maker Matador Records. Recently kicking off their U.S. tour, Leo performs March 26 at the Glass House in Pomona.
The Judgement: Written at various points over the past couple years, it's easy to see that Leo's latest album, the Brutalist Bricks, sports a varied--some would say uneven--feel to it. Though most songs trade in a smart, hook-heavy doses of palatable punk, that energy is clipped on several occasions. Some ideas are just too flatly folky, simply lacking that infectious quality that keeps you humming the tunes long after the album is over.
The Brutalist Bricks' power-packed guitar rock comes in numerous forms, from the full-throttle, melodic energy of opener the "Mighty Sparrow" to the frazzled distortion of "Mourning In America." However, the latter covers it's lack of memorable songwriting by turning the amps up to 11. Bright spots on the album include the syrupy funk pop tune "One Polaroid a Day" (sung in Leo's seldom-unused low register) and "Bottled in Cork," a personal, quick-paced account of a man who's constantly on the move, as demonstrated in stabs of sharp guitar riffage.
That song is a welcomed change from "The Stick," which manages to curb Leo's pop rock appeal by going for a little too much of a cliched hardcore sound. The solo acoustic number "Tuberculoids Arrive in Hop"--pregnant with swampy bayou sound effects--is liable to make make you nod out if you're not careful because of all it's lonely ambience and overall lack of punch. On balance, though, the album proves Leo can still deliver.
Download These: "The Mighty Sparrow," "Bottled in Cork," "One Polaroid A Day"