The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Ted Leo and the Pharmacists fill modern rock prescription

Former Chisel member Ted Leo continues his successful solo career with the release of his fifth album, “Living with the Living.”

Since their debut album, Leo and his band, The Pharmacists, have effectively merged some of rock’n’roll’s greatest moments from the past into a sound of their own. “Living” is no different. The album truly rocks from beginning to end.

The ability to churn out better-than-par albums time and time again has become a hallmark of Leo’s career. That said, sometimes it becomes hard to tell one album from another. The only exception to Leo’s gaggle of similar-sounding work finds itself in 2004’s “Shake the Sheets,” a stripped-down, punk-inspired collection of songs. For those afraid that Leo would forever abandon the use of more than the basic arrangement of guitar, drums and bass, fear not.

With “Living,” Leo and the Pharmacists have returned to a creative blend of not only the basic instruments, but piano, bells, whistles and various guitar effects. This homecoming to what has made Leo such an unfailing and extraordinary artist through the past decade is particularly evident in “Living.” But does anything set this album apart?

The album’s opening track is a 30 second aural assault of newscasts in different languages accompanied by hard-hitting drum fills. With a name like “World War Four,” it’s not hard to figure out what the jumble of voices is talking about or to recognize the theme of the album, for that matter. Leo’s songs have always contained undertones of political criticisms, but never as blatant as those in “Living.”

This isn’t exactly a negative aspect of the album, but it can be overwhelming with song titles such as “Bomb.Repeat.Bomb” and “Army Bound.” The former even concludes with a sound bite of a dive-bombing fighter plane. But aside from bringing Leo’s political standpoint to the frontlines, the band consistently produces high-quality songs.

Immediately following the intro track is one of the best songs on the album, “The Sons of Cain.” The song sets the album’s tempo, as the majority is generally fast-paced , save the reggae-inspired “The Unwanted Things” and the beautifully presented “The Toro and the Toreador,” which are all enhanced by Leo’s incredible vocal range.

The songs are catchy thanks to prominent drum beats, pleasant guitar melodies and well-placed, intricate solos. There seems to be a tad more energy in “Living” than in any previous album, whether it’s because of the omnipresent anti-war themes or the faster-paced songs prevalent throughout the album.

After a few listens to “Living” it becomes largely apparent that Ted Leo and the Pharmacists have definitely added yet another notch to their belt of top-quality albums. As a whole, the album is significantly better than the last, “Shake the Sheets,” but falls in line with its other three predecessors.

Some of Leo’s best work to date is in this new album, but not even a flamboyant message of “up yours” to the U.S. government can make it better than his first three efforts.

Whether you’re already a fan of Ted Leo, “Living with the Living” highlights the contributions this man and his Pharmacists have made to rock music over the past few years, and will easily make its mark as one of the best albums of 2007.

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