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Ted Leo Pharmacists | Living With the Living | review | alternative | Lollipop

Ted Leo/Pharmacists

Living With the Living (Touch and Go)
by Tim Den

I'm seriously developing a love/hate relationship with Ted Leo/Pharmacists. On the one hand, they're capable of staggering work, such as breakthrough album The Tyranny of Distance and their last one, Shake the Sheets, showcasing retardedly advanced senses of melody, yet on the other hand, the band seem to put out disappointments between great records. The Tyranny of Distance was followed by Hearts of Oak, and now Shake the Sheets is being followed by Living With the Living. Not that Living With the Living or Hearts of Oak are bad albums, but they're certainly letdowns after the standards set by their predecessors.

For one thing, Leo has decided to trade in Shake the Sheets' beefy production for a sonic palette not unlike The Tyranny of Distance's weakest tracks (I'm guessing the return of Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty as producer had something to do with it). The drums sound especially muffled and stifled, with the snare not unlike a piece of rotten meat hitting the floor. As for the songs themselves, it's business as usual as Leo and company spit out tune after tune of - what else? - Weller and Kinks tributes, yet you can't help but feel "been there done that" toward 'em. The Clash mingle with falsetto on "Who Do You Love?" and even reggae shows up for a visit on "The Unwanted Things," but you don't really care cuz the actual songs just aren't that great. I suppose the back-to-basics approach of Living With the Living is a statement in and of itself: To strip away gleam and find beauty in the rough. Okay, I would've taken the rough production values if the songs were any good, but they're just not that spectacular. Passable, yes, but definitely no "Me and Mia."

Only time will tell if Living With the Living's follow-up will offer redemption. Until then, get Shake the Sheets instead.


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