ted leo and the pharmacists – hearts of oak

there’s so much to love about this album. i get that ted leo isn’t for everyone. he has a definite thing that’s just his. and you like it or you don’t (i’m pretty sure no one would introduce the extreme concept of hate). it’s like a vortex would open up and swallow anyone who vehemently opposed what ted creates.

and while the sounds are genuinely fulfilling – guitar riffs that satisfy; drum and bass rhythm that tunes into your heart beat and forces it to move faster; enough other flourishes, little and big, to notice but not annoy – the conceptual content of this music is its most interesting feature. some might say it’s earnest. maybe it’s because i identify with it, and don’t identify myself as any kind of zealot, that i disagree.

the eponymous song, for instance, is perhaps the best song in the collection, and that i know of at all, in which a man recognises and actually welcomes the strength of a woman. and it has nothing to do with her sexuality or femaleness, or his male gaze. it’s just humanness. and someone like ted writing and singing this makes one realise it is actually possible [and there’s the pang of sorrow that this is apparently an uncommon occurrence].

i’m not one to utter a line like, “you don’t even have to pay attention to the lyrics to enjoy the music, cos it rocks!”. that’s because i do disagree with such a sentiment; it’s lazy and pointless. music always means more than just the patterned rhythmic response a lot of people expect [thrash head, move feet, raise arms in the air, flail around, use to score]. and if it doesn’t hold inherent other meaning, it shouldn’t exist. did i just say that? i think i’ve admitted elsewhere here that i do like some music that doesn’t seem to mean much. but meaning we imbue on something can redeem otherwise empty music, while a complete ignorance to a particular artist’s statements is just rude.

when you read the lyrics contained in the liner notes, you might think the songs are long and verbose. in reality, ted’s punk background gives the best indicator of how those lyrics are employed in musical form – fast paced, sometimes semi-screamed, actually never lost in any sense of falsehood.

for me, the most telling perspective is to look at the “contemporaries” – other bands enjoying success at the same time as this album was released. wilco, the strokes, the white stripes. gimmicks. poseurs.

so my question is, where have all the boys like ted gone?


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