Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are known for their intricate mix of powerful lyrics and rousing songs that create memorable anthems such as “Me and Mia” and “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?”
With its latest release, Living with the Living, the band has continued to churn out such tracks and has also included new elements in their music, creating an eclectic album that ranges from the extremely personal to the aggressively political.
“Bomb. Repeat. Bomb,” one of the first tracks, is noted for its frantically placed guitar harmony and Leo’s scattered vocals. Leo wavers from speaking to almost muttering under his breath as he bashes the current administration’s handling of the Iraq war.
“Oh sure, you could probably mobilize a million troops / but a thousand could probably get the job done,” Leo sings. Throughout the song, the background vocals keep repeating “bomb, repeat, bomb, repeat” and Leo screams the word ‘bomb’ over and over.
“Annunciation Day / Born on Christmas Day” is another heavily political song, but is not as fast paced as “Bomb.” Leo sings, “Yet eternal peace awaits / but for now you get the eternal war / and not even the government knows what the f— it’s for.” Although the song is only a minute and a half long, it still conveys a powerful message.
Apart from the politically minded songs, the album also delivers other equally amazing tracks. “La Costa Brava” includes references to the city of Barcelona, and is the closest thing to a ballad the album has. “The Toro and the Toreador” is the most intimate track, with only slow strumming behind Leo’s soft voice, while he sings some of his most personal lyrics. “The best advice I ever had was leave what was behind / but did I see some value there / or am I going blind?”
Things” specifically features a combination ska/reggae beat, and “A Bottle of Buckie” has a breakdown that includes a tin whistle, (think the Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly). While both of these songs stand out drastically from the preceding tracks, they still manage to mesh well with the overall product.Although each track has its own different message, the album as a whole has a cohesive feel to it. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists not only expanded on their original sound, but also went in a different direction, creating a powerfully eclectic sixth album.