Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist BricksTed Leo & the PharmacistsThe Brutalist Bricks (Matador)

Where have all the rude boys gone?

They’re pounding the pavement, looking for work in our wi-fi layered neighborhoods, too busy trying to become a part of the system rather than rebel against it.

It’s called getting older, and while it’s something to fear for a few years in your twenties, you eventually begin to realize that it’s inevitable. The least you can do is to hide just how much you’ve really sold out to your friends who are still holding on to their righteous ideology while perfecting their latte art instead of perfecting their resume.

Don’t worry. They’ll eventually sell out too and all of that progressive zeal will be replaced with complacency and compromise. Hell, even Ted Leo is beginning to get softer lyrically while cleverly revisiting the same blend of Attractions‘ bash that made him such a vital voice during the Bush II administration.

There’s still plenty of Leo’s lefty bent to appease even the most cynical undergrad, but there’s enough infectious rhythms happening within The Brutalist Bricks that even a Tea Party member may find their groove thing.

Because as Ted Leo approaches 40, he’s beginning to understand that more meaningful change may only come if he looks beyond the dives of those college towns. And maybe he’s starting to feel that his bark is just getting lost in the static of a country where people not only have an opinion of everything, they think they have a right to scream it in town hall meetings, government buildings, and in ALL CAPS on the internet.

Yes, the only complaint with The Brutalist Bricks may be with how utterly normal it seems now, and much of that is no fault of his own. It shows Leo and the Pharmacists wisely returning to their blueprint prior to Living With The Living, showing off just how tight this band can be in front of a few microphones and after a few months of nine-to-five rehearsing.

Bricks has Leo and company patting us on the back rather than kicking us in the ass. To be sure, we needed it back then, just like we need a level-headed Leo right about now.

“I’m so sick of cynics and I want something to believe in,” sings Ted Leo on “Ativan Eyes,” suggesting that maybe those pharmaceutical companies have created a nation of cloudy-eyed zombies, free from panic attacks but also from an ability to connect with one another.

“Even Heroes Have To Die” is Leo’s best entry for Nick Lowe‘s production reel while “Bottled In Cork” serves as his demo for Elvis Costello‘s Spectacle consideration.

There are a few missteps: “One Polaroid A Day” is a breathy and preachy jab at people to turn off their computers and get outside to take pictures using the dead technology of a bankrupt brand. “Tuberculoids Arrive In Hop” is an acoustic number that finds Leo playing to a chorus of crickets and messing with a ridiculous Leslie speaker trick during the bridge, completely spoiling the mood of what is otherwise a forgetable two minute ballad.

Aside from two duds and a fairly weak Minutemen nod (“The Stick”), The Brutalist Bricks is another fine entry in Leo’s growing catalog, one that will surely grow in stature the moment he’s not around to preach to us from stage left or the moment he decides to change course, tempo, or political parties.

Until then, The Brutalist Bricks presents an older Ted Leo on a sturdy foundation, able to withstand anything that the rude boys might be considering at this moment.

Video: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – “The Mighty Sparrow”

MP3: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – “The Mighty Sparrow”

MP3: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – “Even Heroes Have To Die”

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, MySpace.

10 thoughts on “Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks”

  1. Memo to Todd Totale : Americans don’t just think they have the right to “scream their opinions in town hall meetings, government buildings and in ALL CAPS on the internet”. They (we) HAVE the right to do just that. Funny how public dissent against Bush II was seen by the media and the left (but I repeat myself) as patriotic. Now that middle America has stood up to what’s going on in a Democrat (I’m being kind) administration, dissent is now portrayed as dangerous – you know – right wing nut jobs, racists, etc.

    Your Ted Leo review exposed the fact that you are indeed paying attention to many things happening in our country, while simultaneously critiquing the album (it is an album review, right?) “Progressive zeal replaced with complacency and compromise”, huh? “Sell out too”, huh?

    I would have worded it as “don’t worry – eventually they will realize that liberalism is a lie and that depending on “free” stuff from the government is a horrible way to live. Eventually they will get off their asses and consider self-reliance and the notion of the INDIVIDUAL as the best way to make something of themselves in this life.

    Gee I used CAPS again – sorry.

    Normally your reviews are some of my favorites on GloNo. This one – well it says a lot about you – if not about Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ new album.


    Jonathan Miller

  2. I don’t think Todd needs me defending him, but Jonathan, if you are surprised at Todd’s left-wing tilt, or that of GloNo, I guess you’re not poking around the site that much. And I heartily endorse dissent, myself, but I find signs depicting the president with all the hallmarks of racist caricature offensive, and the notion of many on the far right toting their guns to political rallies and talking about “reloading” for the election to be threatening. There’s a difference between dissent and political debate, and threats and racism. Folks on both sides of the political spectrum would do well to note the difference.

    As for a review saying a lot about a reviewer, it ought to. Review is opinion, and if you don’t know something about the person expressing that opinion, you don’t have much to hang your hat on. In that regard, Todd, nice review. Of course, since it’s Ted Leo, I’d be checkin’ it out anyway.



  3. Firstly, thanks for reading and commenting.

    I guess I am a little taken with the context of your comment and I debated long and hard if I should even reply. Because-let’s be honest here-the entire tone of your reply rather mirrors the notion of “right wing nutjob” that you identify as an unfair label. After all, how on earth did you tie the review of The Brutalist Bricks with the entire health care debate and public welfare?

    Seriously dude, I re-read my review at least a dozen times to see if there was some underlying hints and I’ll be goddamned if I can find a direct connection. It reeks of some weird conspiracy theory, and although it may be pointless to try to convince you otherwise, please give me a moment to try and spell out the truth.

    The puzzling thing for me was how I was trying to poke fun at how a large portion of wide-eyed progressives start college with a belief that they can take on the world with their social liberalism only to watch it fade as they get older. It’s that “sound of settling;” you get married, you have children, you instinctive want to protect what you’ve built and suddenly, all of those lofty, liberal ideals don’t have as big a place in your world as they used to. Did you get that? I was kind of MAKING FUN OF THE LIBERAL ELITE (all caps) which should have made you chuckle a bit.

    The Boomers are a prime example of this hypocracy-but don’t think for a moment that I don’t recognize those very same traits in me. It seems like a lifetime ago when I was protesting some kind of injustice, wagging my finger at consumerism, attending Jessie Jackson lectures while wearing an “Another Skinhead For Peace” t-shirt. The man I am now would be an embarrassment to the man I was some twenty years ago.

    The line you quoted about “progressive zeal” was actually a jab at me and anyone who “sold out” their youthful ideology with middle age complacency. I thought my intent and who I was sarcastically ridiculing was obvious, but I guess not. Maybe that’s why those personal swipes of “huh” were needed, to put me in my place again.

    So I tried to draw an analogy with that reality and the fact that Ted Leo is toning down his rhetoric somewhat. Here’s where I need your help: you have to acknowledge that for nearly two decades, Ted Leo has been a consistent voice of liberalism, progressiveness, whatever label you want to put on it. In fact, what made your comment startling was that Leo’s work is so full of the ideology that you’re obviously resentful of, that I privately questioned, “Why is Jonathan Miller getting so worked up about a review of Ted Leo?” And yes, it was a review Mr. Miller; I’m guessing that you just didn’t like that I reminded readers of Leo’s political leanings in the first half of the article.

    Which brings me to another part where I need your help again: to acknowledge that the idea of debate and meaningful conversation has changed in the last decade. Nowhere in the review does it suggest that free speech isn’t our right, and I’m kind of offended that you needed to remind readers of this. I wanted to sing, “We’ll put a boot in their ass, it’s the American way” after I read it. Of course, people have every right to go to their Senator’s town hall meetings to scream, be disruptive, and carry on-but for me, it doesn’t give me a chance to really hear or understand their point of view. In fact, it turns me off and makes me think those people are a bunch of assholes. But that’s what a lot of Americans are doing-and yes, I’m speaking to the health care “debate” here. Add to this, people are choosing to ignore the decorum of our nation’s government institutions (laugh if you must, but I do cherish our country’s long-standing rules towards debate and consensus building and think that our elected officials must follow them and our citizens respect them) and everyone (myself included) has their own blogs, avatars, and anonymous identities where we can talk shit without repercussion. At least until we crash our planes into a federal building and people then put a face to all of the “patriotic” manifestos.

    I’m rambling now, but all I was trying to suggest was that-with all of this out there-it is possible that Ted Leo is throwing up his hands a bit and is now trying to spoon feed some lefty socialism to us rather than cram it down our throats.

    I’m sorry, I should have taken a more adult road with this reply to you and I probably should have just let it go. But you made it almost personal and I really think you owe me an apology. I’m pretty confident that one won’t be provided, so let me close by saying that you really read way too much into the review and you read even more too much into me-a person who you don’t even know. You could probably piece my own ideologies easily-and part of me thinks that you may have done just that. But to draw those assumptions from this review is shortsighted, and it was done in a way that you let your own political fervor make you come across as a mean person.

  4. Right on, Mr. Totale. Although you broke the cardinal prohibition about feeding the trolls… something about not wanting to justify the misinformed rhetoric of an opponent by acknowledging it to be worthy of such a lengthy, measured response, or other such silly philosophical tripe.

  5. Mr. Totale,

    I do wholeheartedly apologize for the personal nature of my criticism of your review. However, if you re-read your review a dozen times, did you catch the part where you said Americans “think” they have the right to go to town hall meetings, etc? The key word that pissed me off was think. You’re saying that nowhere in the review does it suggest that free speech isn’t our right and I am suggesting that you did indeed do just that. Ted Leo has been a liberal voice through his excellent music for years – agreed. The tone of debate and meaningful conversation has changed in the last decade – agreed. I don’t know you at all and again I apologize if I offended you. Thanks for engaging in conversation here and for contributing your reviews which I will continue to read – take care.

  6. Murph, I don’t think Jonathan Miller was trolling. Just disagreeing.

    But I think he’s wrong about the review, re: free speech. The relevant passage is: “they think they have a right to scream it” (my emphasis added — whereas Jonathan emphasized “think”). I’m no Constitutional scholar, but I’m not 100% convinced the first amendment protects screaming. Maybe it does. Regardless, screaming still makes people look like crazed assholes, whether it’s their constitutionally protected right or not.

    But I’m pleased and proud that we can have a civil discussion about it here.

  7. DJ MURPHY! Quit wasting time on this and get your guitar parts recorded for the next Hurricane Sven single.

  8. You guys make several good points and there’s no doubt I got worked up over an album review. I’m deeply disturbed over the direction the United States seems to be heading and Todd’s review lit me up like a match. Bands like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Pearl Jam (whom Ted Leo has opened for and I’ve seen in 2008)put me in a pickle. I love their music to my core, but as Todd touched on, getting a bit older ( I’m 36 ) has caused me to take stock of many things. Why great rock and roll seems to organically grow from the political left frustrates me – but maybe it shouldn’t. I was once a liberal too.

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