Political pop punk prescription

By Gus Bode

Ted Leo ‘ The Pharmacists: “Living With The Living”

Release date: March 20, 2007

Touch ‘ Go Records

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www.tedleo.com

Rating: 4/5

Ted Leo ‘ The Pharmacists’ fifth full-length album, “Living With The Living,” is equal parts political as it is pop punk rock and experimentally genre-ridden.

Starting with energetic, feel-good punk and working their way through reggae, funky rock tracks and slower ballads, Ted Leo ‘ The Pharmacists brings a little hope to such somber topics as war.

Ted Leo knows how to strike a chord of optimism in a world of pop punk filled with hopelessness, despair and depression, and he does it in a way that’s reminiscent of earlier Rancid or Less Than Jake. Not only is his message a cry for help, but it also brings a feeling of unity and clarity, offering a hand to solve the problem instead of just complaining.

After a short intro, “The Sons Of Cain” is really the first dexterous, fast-paced track, bursting out at the seams with an intensity missing from most music. And while this album manages to slow down quite a bit, that feeling of well-being remains. The melodic, aspiring guitars are still flailing, and every now and then Ted Leo softens up and gives us a glimpse of his sweet tenor, especially on “Who Do You Love?” though it’s not too often that he becomes too sentimental.

We get a first strong taste of a political agenda with “Army Bound,” and the name of the track speaks enough for itself. The best on this album, though, is the densely dark “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.” Ted doesn’t sing, but mainly talks and screams through a political narration about the answer to all the problems – bombs.

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“Living With The Living” is extremely accessible, perhaps the catchiest yet best rocking pop punk to be released by the band so far. It is, no doubt, an up-to-date and mature album, equal parts melodic and exciting.

The album flows perfectly from one song to the next, as many of the songs, minus “Bomb,” taps into the same, easy-going congruity, with palm-muted verses and sing-a-long choruses.

While this album is good up-front, it does have the potential to get old pretty quick, as do most pop punk records, but what’s different about this one is that you’ll actually miss it when you get sick of it, as opposed to some poppy emo record that you’re more than happy to throw out the window in a fit of rage. Ted Leo ‘ The Pharmacists win in that aspect.

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