Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are a household name in alternative rock. Ten years after their first release comes their first album for Matador Records, The Brutalist Bricks
. It's a strong, shimmery collection of songs, but at the same time, the band is starting to show their age.
The Brutalist Bricks
is essentially a 13-track slice of power-pop in the same vein as Cheaptrick or The Mountain Goats, only a bit slower and chunkier. Where a band like The Mountain Goats hides their slower tempo songs behind southern twang or Fountains of Wayne mask blander hooks with synth and quirkiness, Leo and his band don't have the same ability. Their's is a bare bones approach...not terrible, but it makes much of this album hit or very miss.
Also, one of the more unfortunate problems with The Brutalist Bricks
is Ted Leo's voice. On more than a few occasions, the vocals reminisce of The Offspring's Dexter Holland, circa 2010, which really can get in the way.
There's nothing to say about Ted Leo and The Pharmacists going stale, but they do seem to be slowly putting more classic rock elements in to what they do. Many of the songs here have electric organ, tamborine, and jazzier bits of basslines, which again, isn't a bad thing. The songs probably just won't resonate with fans as much as previous efforts.
Songs like "Even Heroes Have To Die", "Bottled In Cork", and "Bartolomeo Arrive In Hop" are all moments on the record where Ted Leo's Bob Dylan-style vocals come across well. But what really makes these numbers stand out is the fact they seem so comfortable with their speed...they don't ache to go faster. "Gimme The Wire" is also a great uptempo track.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists aren't going anywhere anytime soon, but their sound does seem to be transitioning into something a bit more...mature. If The Brutalist Bricks
is their transition period, then it's safe to say the best is yet to come. -Ryan Broderick
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MP3:"Bottled in Cork" - The Brutalist Bricks
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists on Myspace