ted leo & the pharmacists – the brutalist bricks

you better watch what you ask for
cos someday, it might just come

though i had no idea what i was really buying into at the time, it makes sense to me that i like this album so much. i realise why in hindsight and with concentration. it’s like a heavier and more political version of the pernice brothers. but don’t be fooled – there’s love in here too.

the centre of this is definitely pop – but like hard sour candy, not a soft oozy filling. the rage runs through the loudest and highest-energy songs, morning in america, the stick (my favourite song on the album), woke up near chelsea and where was my brain. of course, the stick stands out for me in part because i can sing it with such vegan vehemence, especially the line, they want you driving to the supermarket, buying milk and cheese. it seems to be a fringe activity these days to question consumerism. we’ve always been complicit, and lulled into a stupor by corporations as long as they have existed. but now it’s rare to hear even progressive voices trying to destroy the assumption that capital as a formative social structure is good, and expose its true purpose as heavily weighted towards those with inherited privilege (individuals and cultures).

on the flipside of the commentary running through this album – which it must be said is never overbearing – the love resides in songs in obscure, “is it or isn’t it?” ways, such as in ativan eyes (lay your expert hands on me), bottled in cork (tell the bartender, i think i’m falling in love) and last days (being alone, i naturally thought of you). the interpretation is there for the taking, in their tone and key (even if the words actually mean something else). as ted himself sings on ativan eyes, i’m so sick of cynics and i want something to trust in.

in final contemplation, it was a strange moment to have the end of tuberculoids arrive in hop go in sync with the heat bugs singing here right now. it’s like an out-of-body experience, to be listening to an album that has such industry about it in the quiet, hot night surrounded by bushland. relative silence feels empty when the music is gone.


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