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Archive for the ‘Ted Leo’ Category

[ATTENDED: August 24, 2019] Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

I recall being puzzled by the name of this band back ages ago when they were sometimes known as Ted Leo + Pharmacists.  It seemed like a cataloging nightmare.  But I can get over that and simply enjoy that Ted has fun with his band name (sometimes written as (TL/Rx)).  But this night they were billed as Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.  The Pharmacists have, as of late been a six piece:  Chris Wilson on drums, James Canty on guitar and keyboards, Marty Key on bass, Ralph Darden on guitar, and Adrienne Berry on saxophone and vocals and percussion.

After the bristling punk of Control Top, I wasn’t sure what Ted Leo would bring.  I know he has roots in punk, but surely not that much punk.  And, thankfully, he didn’t try to match Control Top, because that’s not his thing.  It is awesome that he brought them along, though.

Ted’s older songs were punky in the way that Billy Bragg’s early songs were punky–literate, angry and thoughtful–all to a catchy melody.  His newer songs are a bit more reflective (doom folk he called it).

He and the band came out and set things up and when he picked up his guitar people clapped and shouted.  He put a finger up–patience–and then they all left again for a couple of minutes. My only gripe about the show was that they made Control Top cut their set one song short because of time, and then Ted and Co. waited about ten minutes after their gear was set up to come out on stage–they could have played that one last song.  But that’s okay, Ted made up for it.   (more…)

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[ATTENDED: August 24, 2019] Control Top

I have wanted to see Ted Leo for a while.  In fact I almost saw him July 1 at Boot & Saddle, but that was a hectic week for me.  The opening band for that show was Tact, a Philadelphia band.  I was sure that after missing that show I’d have to wait a while for him to come around again.

But then he announced a brief tour that stopped in his once home state of New Jersey.  And I got to go to White Eagle Hall.  I love the venue.  It has great sound and it’s pretty close.  But man the lighting is terrible for taking pictures.

The opening band for this little tour was Control Top, another Philadelphia band.  Philly has been producing some great bands of late and Control Top is definitely one of them.

I was surprised by this billing because they couldn’t be any different.  It’s true that Leo has roots in the punk scene but Control Top is pure screaming punk through and through. like on “Black Hole

I listened to their album before the show and was pleased by their roaring sound and the intense vocals of Ali Carter.

But I was totally unprepared for the guitar theatrics of Al Creedon.  He didn’t do anything fancy but the noises that he wrung from that guitar were just unbelievable.  Even moreso was that he could come out of squalling noises like in “Type A” and jump right into a pretty or unexpectedly light riff.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TED LEO-Tiny Desk Concert #680 (December 4, 2017).

Up until now, I have more or less missed Ted Leo and all of his phases.  The blurb notes:

How you listen to Leo depends on when his work came into your life. If you’re a back-in-the-day type you might rep for Chisel, his ’90s punk outfit born on the Notre Dame campus and bred in Washington, D.C. If you’re just tuning in, you may have witnessed his understated comedy chops in arenas like The Best Show on WFMU and a highly enjoyable Twitter feed. At the center of this bell curve are those who found Leo at the dawn of the 2000s — when, at the helm of what’s most commonly called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (shout-out to the typographical variants still mucking up iTunes libraries), he kicked off a run of five stellar albums in just under 10 years, each one urgently attuned to its political context and yet defiant in its ideas of what punk could sound like and whose stories it could aim to tell. Fans will tell you the songs about eating disorders and missing old ska bands felt just as vital to their moment as those that explicitly took on Sept. 11 and the Iraq War.

I know Ted Leo from when he played with Aimee Mann as The Both (they did a Tiny Desk show) and I am aware of Ted Leo + Pharmacists (the above mentioned typographical variant), but I somehow never really heard him/them.  I didn’t even know he was a Jersey guy.  (My friend Al is a big fan, I recently learned).

Recently, WXPN has been playing his new song “Can’t Go Back” which is wonderfully poppy and catchy and which I sing along to each morning.  Leaning more about him (and how funny he is in the Tiny Desk show) makes me want to see what I’ve been missing.

I obviously had no idea about his punk past, so I was pretty surprised to hear the feedback and heavy guitar of the first song here “Moon Out of Phase.”  Leo sings pretty hard on this song, too.  It’s fairly simple musically, but there’s a bunch going on lyrically that’s fun to pick out.

[After] the bone-rattling slow burn “Moon Out of Phase,” he smiled and explained the song was perhaps “a little heavy for noon — but, practically speaking, it helps me get the cobwebs out.”

“Can’t Go Back” couldn’t be more different. It’s catchy and not at all heavy.  It has backing vocals (provided by Leo himself) and just swings along.

 It’s a bit faster than on record, and as the blurb notes:

By the time he hit the first chorus of “Can’t Go Back,” a danceable bop about accepting that the life you have isn’t quite the one you planned for, any remaining cobwebs had been scattered to the wind.

Interestingly for being such a guitar based guy, there;s no solos on the songs (and yet they’re not short either, the first and third songs are about 4 minutes long).  Rather than a solo on “Can’t Get Back,” there’s a cool guitar chord progression.

He seems unsure of the quality of that song (not sure why–because he doesn’t hit those high notes perfectly?)  But then says he’ll finish off with a request.  “I’m a Ghost” is an old song that he doesn’t usually play solo, but figured he would because of the time of year (guess this was recorded around Halloween).

He tells an amusing story about someone asking about the first line: “I’m ghost and I wanted you to know its taking all of my strength to make this toast.”  The person asked if the toast was “a toast” or a ghost pressing the lever down on a toaster and “the hand of the frosty apparition is just going through the thing.”  He says it was originally “a toast” but now it is absolutely about the toaster, that’s the greatest metaphor for so many things.”

It’s really about “alienation from the political process.” It’s more rocking, like the first song, but with a catchy chorus like the second song.  This is a fun set and a good, long-overdue introduction to Ted Leo.

[READ: April 6, 2017] The Golden Vendetta

This is the third full-sized book in the Copernicus series.  It follows the mini-book about Becca.

I enjoyed this book more than the second one.  I enjoy the sections where they have some downtime and aren’t just running around.  And there was more downtime in this book.  I was also really intrigued by the way it began.

The families had been reunited and them separated.  So Darrell and Wade and the adults Kaplans were living in a hotel under an assumed name.  And Lily and Becca were also together under assumed names–but they were not allowed to contact the boys.  This went on for two months.

In that time Galina Krause had been inactive.  We learn that she had been in a coma, but the good guys never find that out, they’re just in the dark for months.

Until Galina wakes up and is on the move again.  And then everyone is on the move.

The families travel under assumed names but are still followed relentlessly by the bad guys. (more…)

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animalSOUNDTRACK: THE BOTH-Tiny Desk Concert #346 (April 7, 2014).

bothThe Both is a mini-supergroup of sorts featuring Aimee Mann and Ted Leo.  I don’t know too much about Ted Leo, but I do know a lot about Aimee Mann.  I was curious to hear what these two sounded like together (this Tiny Desk was recorded before their album was released and was one of their first public performances together).

They play four songs, and I feel like they sound very much like Aimee Mann songs.  I never thought of Aimee Mann as having a terribly distinctive voice, but I guess she does.  And her voice and melody lines over these simple songs sounds very much like her own.  Since I don’t know much about Ted Leo, I don’t know exactly what he adds to the songwriting.  His voice is good (he can hit some high notes) and his guitar playing is minimal but very effective.

“You Can’t Help Me Now” sounds a lot like an Aimee Mann song, so it’s nice to hear Ted come in on the second verse, to change it up a bit.  “Milwaukee” sounds a lot like a Beautiful South song to me–the way the verses are sung and the way the chorus comes in, there’s just something that sounds very much like the way Paul Heaton writes songs (this is a good thing).  “No Sir” is a rather different song from the others.  It  features some great echoey guitars to open and has a loud ringing guitar solo.  The verses still sound like Aimee Man (that has to be unavoidable), but the choruses change things up.

“The Gambler” sounds like a jointly written song.  It’s a bit more raucous and highlights both of their strengths.  Overall, the music isn’t the most exciting but I’m not really sure what else would have come out of this pairing.  Obviously, if you like Aimee Mann, you’ll like The Both.

What’s most interesting to me is seeing Aimee Mann play–she is so causal (she barely changes expression and hardly opens her mouth when she sings) and she stands up so straight and calm.  Check it out here.

[READ: June 26, 2014] Animal Crackers

I’ve mentioned Gene Luen Yang’s books before–I’m very fond of him.  So I was thrilled to see a new book by him.  Except that this isn’t new, my library just happened to get it now. This book was published by Slave Labor Graphics in 2010, but these stories are much older than that.  In fact, the back of the book has a note from Gene in which he explains that the first chapter of this book was actually the first story he ever created.

And what a story it is.

The book is actually three interlocking stories.  Two longer stories: “Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks” and “Loyola Chin and the San Peligran Order.”  And a brief interlude called “Sammy the Baker and the M.A.C.”  You know they are interlocking because Gordon appears in the Loyola story (and because they both stick cable TV cables up their nose at some point), and because Sammy appears in the Gordon story.

In the first story Gordon is a bully.  He and his buddy Devon find the King of the Geeks each year in school and “crown” him (with super glue and old underpants).  They think this is very funny and plan to do some more devious things to him later that day.  Of course, when Miles, King of the Geeks gets home, his mother is very upset (naturally) and plans to call the police.  But the only thing that he cares about is his father.  Whose only comment is to wonder how he wound up with such a sissy son.

Gordon wakes up in the middle of the night with a pain in his nose.  It turns out to be a space alien (the aliens learned that humans use so little of their brains that they can store data in our brains for use later).  The only way that Gordon can help with this problem is by sticking the coaxial cable in his nose.  Which he does.  And the little alien dude explains what he has to do.  Which is, of course to go to the King of the Geeks (whose brain they are also using) to find the instructions for how to evict the spaceship.  But as they try to exchange the proper information, Gordon gets all of the Geek King’s memories.  And suddenly he feels really bad about what happened. (more…)

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