Living With The Living is a totally standard Ted Leo album. That is to say, it's a wicked-tight set of wiry, bristling pop songs built on a non-aggressive punk foundation, with engaging twists and turns into Celtic drinking howlers, plaintive love ballads and some breezy reggae, all of it bound together by Leo's sweetly elastic vocals and smart lyrics. But Leo and his Pharmacists have morphed into a virtual Tron of a band. They sound like one brain playing machine-gun rhythms and echoing chords on a multitude of instruments, and their incredible fusion makes even the tunes with the simplest, most standard structures - like the restrained, pulsating anthem La Costa Brava or the summery verse-chorus-verse-bridge pop of Who Do You Love? - exciting. And Leo's still one of the few white rocker dudes who can pull off a passable reggae number, which he proves here with The Unwanted Things. I still wonder why a guy so gifted at doing killer covers (his versions of Since U Been Gone and Many Rivers To Cross come to mind) doesn't throw one in as a bonus, but that's a minor quibble.
Ted Leo sweats buckets at the Mod Club Wednesday (May 2).