Been waiting on some rockin’ good news from former Chisel frontman Ted Leo? Following the trio’s breakup in 1997, the born-to-sing Leo displayed his trenchant songwriting skills to fine advantage in the short-lived Sin Eaters, but he really lets them come home to roost now in a new, sort-of solo foray called Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. And he’s made a home on Berkeley-based Lookout! Records, a label whose main stock in trade is catchy bubble gum punk, but which also releases a number of right-on prestige releases like the group’s new long-player, The Tyranny of Distance.
Leo is something of an inscrutable talent. Over the course of its 12 songs, The Tyranny of Distance meanders through some pretty strange territory—from the jaunty double-time shuffle of “Parallel or Together?” to the odd combination of sea chantey and 12-bar crunch in “Stove By a Whale”—pausing frequently and lightly to unpack and lovingly stroke an unrequited love for infectious British pop along the lines of the Housemartins, the Silencers (the “Razor Blades of Love” ones, not the garage band) and a less cheeky Wonder Stuff. Leo makes whatever he’s singing about sound so soulful, though—it’s tough to listen without getting a brush of his falsetto-laced enthusiasm.
As for the Pharmacists, it’s anyone’s guess who’s going to roll into town this Sunday to perform with Ted Leo. The recording lineup includes two Canty brothers—Brendan and James, of the D.C. Canty dynasty—on drums alone.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Juno singer/guitar player Arlie Carstens would like to have you listen to his band Juno’s new album, A Future Lived In Past Tense, sprawled on your bed with a high-tech pair of Sennheisers. You are forgiven for feeling as though this importunate request fairly begs the question, “So why are you playing at Jay’s Upstairs?”
ut optimal bed-sprawling or yard-laying or lengthy-train-ride-having or Transatlantic-flight-falling-asleep-on music the album is for sure, as is any lengthy album or double album that paints a bigger thematic picture into which melt beautifully crafted individual songs in that grayscape between waking and sleeping listening. The recording lineup on A Future Lived—Carstens, guitarist Gabe Carter, drummer Greg Ferguson, guitarist Jason Guyer, and bass adjuncts Nick Harmer and Nate Mendel (of Foo Fighters fame)—expresses an affection for “elaborate soundscapes and a deeply affecting moodiness,” as well as for the intensity of groups like Hüsker Dü, who grew out of root-bound punk beginnings to write some of the snarlingestly emotive songs in the postpunk jukebox.
I personally don’t think anyone’s ever going to touch the double LP Zen Arcade in my bed-sprawling Sennheiser Top Ten. It’s a tough act to follow. A Future Lived in Past Tense is still a pretty good chartered trip, though.