Its called paying your dues and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have done it in spades. Since 1999 various incarnations of this band led by Mr Leo from Washington DC have rocked around the USA honing their concert appearances to perfection. Their 2004 album "Shake the Sheets" was right on target especially the songs "Counting down the hours" and the truly wonderful "Me and Mia" and the set the template for a pop/punk/rock/soul band that could play the spoons if required and sound great. If anyone has also heard 2003's "Heart of Oaks" please feel free to add a comment.
British artists such as Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Clash and even the Libertines are the key reference points here. Ok it is not hugely original but as summer approaches it will soundtrack warm days and when its done this well there is no need to be disingenuous. The album is fast paced, full of big tunes, infused with hope and Ted Leo himself sings with little regard to the future impact on his larynx.
The pace barely lets up over the 13 songs contained herein but savvy punters should head for the best of the bunch which include the poptastic "Even heroes have to die", the fast Costello like "Mourning in America" and the two real highlights which happen to be the opening track "Mighty Sparrow" (check out the You Tube storming version on the Jimmy Fallon show) and closing track "Last days". Both have a punk rock sensibility that will have you humming like a bee with a pollen overdose. Indeed Last Days clearly draws on the riff of a another song which I am damned if I can recall but its great all the same.
Ted Leo and the Pharmicists could appropriate the label from James Brown as the hardest working men in show business. "Brutalist Bricks" is passionate but focused album by a great American band who deserve much wider recognition.
Contrary to other reviewers, I thought that the last Ted Leo LP Living with the Living was up there with his best. This Lp is different to the last one, so maybe that will get fans back on board.
The opening Mighty Sparrow (also the current show opener) sets the tone - like before the influence of Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, and Nick Lowe shines through, but that's not to say that TL & TP aren't original - they somehow manage to mash that 1979 new wave feel up to give it a contemporary feel, that stomps all over many of today's bigger acts. Even Heroes Have to Die, Where Was My Brain, One Polaroid A Day, and Gimme the Wire are highlights but really there's not a bad track on here. Try and track down the Record Store Day 7" which has two non album tracks. Go and see them live, their drummer (sorry I forget his name) has got to be one of the best I've ever seen, seemingly without putting any effort in at all. Awesome album, from an awesome band. Go buy it.