Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, 'Living With the Living' (Touch and Go)

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Living With the Living
Critical Mass
Label: Touch and Go

by Joe Gross

About 20 years ago, when the speedy strictures and moral panic of Washington, D.C. hardcore gave way to more expansive music and politics, the scene's unofficial motto went from "Out of step / With the world" to "Live the Life," per the old Thomas Dorsey spiritual. It signaled a shift from accusatory tunnel vision to a revolution of the everyday, with a soundtrack of chaotic slambeats and rough syncopations, best exemplified by Fugazi, Lungfish, and Shudder to Think.

Ted Leo understands. A veteran of Jersey and D.C. hardcore, he retains total belief in the old-fashioned notion that what the individual does actually matters. If 2004's killer Shake the Sheets was Leo's Give 'Em Enough Rope -- slicker production that amped up heavier, catchier riffs -- Living With the Living is his London Calling, an hour-long Rolo-dexing of sounds and visions. Produced by Fugazi's Brendan Canty, it moves strikingly from punk to folk to reggae to noise to liberation theology.

"The Sons of Cain" jigs around the loneliness of the good fight with a triumphant thump. "Colleen" worships a scene goddess with sing-along power pop, and "Bomb. Repeat.Bomb" evokes the frenetic jerk of Dutch punks the Ex. Leo still tries to pack an essay into each song, but thinking too much shouldn't exactly be discouraged these days. Especially when he sounds like he could start the revolution by sheer positive force.

Now Hear This: Ted Leo - "Sons of Cain" DOWNLOAD MP3

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