ted leo and the pharmacists – the tyranny of distance

and now to a current crush. ted leo, vegan hero.

there’s a definitive approach that ted leo takes to song construction and delivery. and you hear it here in the earlier days of the pharmacists.

i started out thinking, having read, that his music was punk. it’s not like the clash or anything. but i think i see an odd connection between some strong punk influences (speed of drums and guitars) and the ostensible folksiness of the songs here; like you hear his irish heritage. at other times it’s just great guitar-driven rock.

mostly his voice is sufficiently mellow or melodic to sense too much pointless abandon or true rage. or loss of a message. here there’s only really one obvious political statement (my vien ilin), but i know it’s throughout his music. this is what makes him (thankfully) far more like joe strummer than johnny rotten.

take a song like stove by a whale which, when listened to for its story, lends aspects of social commentary and a great arc. the music itself is almost 1970s slow american rock (including the long outro), which is not what you expect from this guy. the two elements, story and sound, actually don’t really match. but for some of the most catchy work this guy can output, observe the driven noise that is st john the divine (being a life-long atheist, i have no idea if there are actually any religious connotations to the song, but i don’t particularly care!)

i know a quite young guy of perhaps belgian extraction who lives locally, and like me frequents the vegan restaurant with all the other hipsters (him, not me!), and when i attempted to talk to him about music he listed what seemed like endless modern underground punk bands. he seemed to own a t-shirt for every one. without ever listening, for all i know they might have been fictional, or worse, pop. i got the feeling that if i mentioned ted leo as even vaguely punk, he would have scoffed, turned away and never looked me in the eye again. not that this ultimately bothered me… and if there were to be a punk death match, i think i know who’d win.

i believe i started on ted leo when pitchfork rated the most recent album (too many years ago) highly and flogged the hell out of it. that led me down a delightful path, somehow, of discovering the great concept and performance below (still the best av club undercover song). and for a man who sings with such high end, his spoken voice is gorgeously deep.


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