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Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8.75
Musicianship 9
Lyrics 9.25
Production 9
Creativity 8.25
Lasting Value 9.5
Reviewer Tilt 9.75
Final Verdict: 91%
Member Ratings
Vocals 9.13
Musicianship 9.25
Lyrics 9.5
Production 8.5
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 8.75
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Average: 89%

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks

Reviewed by: Jeremy Aaron (04/12/10)
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
Record Label: Matador
Release Date: March 9, 2010

Regardless which amorphous definition of "punk" you subscribe to, it's hard to deny that Ted "The Motherfucking Man" Leo is the real deal. First as the frontman for Chisel and subsequently as head Pharmacist, Leo's been weaving together folk, pop, hardcore and old-time rock and roll into personal and political anthems for twenty years now, and with his new album The Brutalist Bricks, he showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, though Ted Leo devotees will probably forever stand behind The Tyranny of Distance, this stands right up there as one of his strongest sets of songs yet.

With a career as consistent as Leo's has been, it's probably easy to dismiss a new disc as just another solid entry into his discography and have a "nothing new to see here" attitude toward it. It's true that he's not breaking down any barriers stylistically, content with sticking to what he does best. But here's the rub: as a songwriter, vocalist, lyricist, all across the board, Ted Leo is at the top of his game, and given the material he's churned out in the past, that's a strong statement.

Leo's ability to craft songs teeming with pop melody and punk energy is well known, and by opening Bricks with "The Mighty Sparrow", he proves that his knack at creating that balance hasn't gone anywhere. He warns, "you better watch what you ask for, 'cause some day, it just might come," on the buzzing, acerbic "Mourning in America", a sly turn on Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign slogan. Ever the populist, he notes, "the new millenium's tough, for some more than others [it's] a ridiculous understatement," on the driving "Ativan Eyes", and despite the newly instated administration, he makes it clear he's still far from satisfied: "I'm so sick of cynics and I want something to trust in." His musings on mortality on "Even Heroes Have to Die" ("no one lives for ever, no one's wise to try") seem to explain why he's still out making music with more urgency than men half his age. And only Leo could open the catchiest song on an album full of sticky hooks with the line, "there's a resolution pending on the United Nations floor" (from "Bottled in Cork").

Should the day ever arrive when there are no longer political issues to harp on, an exceedingly unlikely proposition, Leo could still easily make a career out of his sharp, observant eye. The danceable "One Polaroid a Day", which sounds like one part XTC and one part Climax Blues Band, finds him breathily exploring the lower end of his range and pointing out the prevailing obsessive need to chronicle our lives in photographs (or "document decay" as he cleverly calls it). "In the time it takes to turn your cameras on, you can keep on clicking but the moment's gone," he sings, seemingly espousing a Zen-like presence of mind. As we float on in Hieronymus Bosch's Ship of Fools, comfortable, oblivious, and indulgent in our own trivialities, Ted Leo's watching and taking mental notes of everything.

And that's why we love him. Releasing one impressive record after another every couple years is a surefire recipe for getting yourself taken for granted, and with this in mind, it would be easy for Leo to phone in a record here and there, but the passion is still very much alive in his music, dripping from every note. He's attained that elder statesman status, where you normally hear records that sound like the artist mindfully winding down his career, the type of records you listen to with a sense of respect as well as wistful longing for the good old days. The Brutalist Bricks sounds nothing like that at all. Ted Leo is still very much in his prime, and Bricks is as relevant (and as great) a record as you'll hear in 2010.

Track Listing1. The Mighty Sparrow (2:37)
2. Mourning in America (2:58)
3. Ativan Eyes (4:22)
4. Even Heroes Have to Die (3:45)
5. The Stick (1:57)
6. Bottled in Cork (3:18)
7. Woke Up Near Chelsea (3:50)
8. One Polaroid a Day (4:10)
9. Where Was My Brain (2:18)
10. Bartomelo and the Buzzing of Bees (3:21)
11. Tuberculoids Arrive in Hop (2:25)
12. Gimme the Wire (2:54)
13. Last Days (3:46)

Check out Ted Leo and the Pharmacists on Myspace and last.fm.
Preview/Buy the album at Amazon MP3.
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 19
12:57 PM on 04/12/10
Adam Pfleider
wait. what were we talking about?
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Adam Pfleider's Avatar
yes!!! I haven't felt this way about a Leo album since Tyranny. please check this out!
05:32 PM on 04/12/10
Chris Fallon
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Chris Fallon's Avatar
Could not get into his last record at all. This one is currently my favorite behind Tyranny. Just so damn good.
04:20 AM on 04/13/10
You're not real musician!
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introduction's Avatar
will be sure to check this out.
07:12 AM on 04/13/10
Dr. Acula
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Dr. Acula's Avatar
This is prob my favorite album of the year so far...so great. One of Ted Leo's best releases to date.
07:44 AM on 04/13/10
The Revisionist
Loves shittyass pop music
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The Revisionist's Avatar
Yeah this album is really good, light years better than Living With the Living.
08:35 AM on 04/13/10
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ninthandash's Avatar
Awesome album by an awesome guy
08:56 AM on 04/13/10
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HometownHero's Avatar
First sentence is a win, and so true. I just listened to this yesterday and I loved it
05:57 PM on 04/13/10
All that wander are not lost
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irthesteve's Avatar
Do not like this one at all, my least favorite easily. The production is so muggy and the songs seem so empty
09:07 PM on 04/13/10
Gay for Moleman
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element4433's Avatar
Ativan Eyes is one of the best songs fucking ever. I can't stop listening to it.
11:06 PM on 04/17/10
Laying Down the Law
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FreshyFresh23's Avatar
Don't like this as much as Shake the Sheets or Living with the Living, but it is still damn good.
05:38 PM on 05/21/10
Registered User
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sudsysarahjane's Avatar
tell the bartender i think i'm falling in love
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