Ted Leo repeats formula, succeeds

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

“Living With the Living”

3.5 out of 5

Ted Leo and his merry band of Pharmacists are back once again with their first album since 2004’s “Shake the Sheets.” Life has been busy for this indie-rock punk-poet laureate between touring and having to find a new label after the demise of Lookout Records (they’re on Touch & Go now).

“Living With the Living,” the band’s fifth album since 1999, is much the same as its prior releases – chock full soul-striking anthems of rebellion, anger, love, frustration, sadness and hope. The album is presented in a highly literate and rousing fashion, intertwined in tight, driving guitars and topped by Leo’s soaring vocals.

All of this is fine and good, and on several levels quite impressive. However, it’s basically the same thing that the band has brought us in the past. I think we’ve come to expect this kind of output from these guys, but then again, maybe I’m being too picky here. After all, it’s another set of catchy rock songs that provide equal enjoyment with every repeat listen. And besides, if you have a winning formula, why tinker with it?

Key Tracks: “The Songs of Cain,” “Some Beginner’s Mind,” “Who Do You Love?”


“I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead”

3 out of 5

This is definitely not your parents’ hip-hop my friends. Hell, this isn’t even your older sibling’s hip-hop.

With mainstream rap hitting new lows this year and becoming excruciatingly self-serving and self-indulgent, El-P has finally come along and saved the day. This is thick, heavy, angry, doom-ridden hip-hop that makes a lot of mainstream rap sound like a Raffi album. I haven’t heard rhymes this vitriolic and angry since Saul William’s last album back in 2004.

Despite the harshness of the album, when compared to El-P’s debut album “Fantastic Damage,” “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” is a much more melodic collection of tracks.

I have no doubt that the production work will catch the casual rap fan off guard. In terms of pure rapping ability, El-P is clearly talented, but it’s the lyrics that snag your ear, not the delivery.

This album is not for the faint of heart, the faint of mind or the faint of soul, and this is not a record that will become a dance floor favorite. This is an album of raw, hardcore emotion that will knock you on your ass.

Key Tracks: “Emg,” “Drive,” “Run the Numbers”