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Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Hearts of Oak

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I read the bio for this man, Ted Leo, and I’ve never heard of any of these bands he’s been involved in. I’ve never heard of the previous (apparently great) release called The Tyranny of Distance. Adding these up the typical internet reader could say I’m unqualified to review this CD but the mark of a great album is its ability to stand on its own.

Oh, it does.

Going back to the bio, Ted Leo has been compared to Elvis Costello, Paul Weller, and Billy Bragg – this means nothing to me as I don’t listen to any of them. What I can do is describe how Mr. Leo’s vocal styling is mighty unique – nothing close to what you’d expect from the label (Lookout) and none of the posturing of the current collection of “garage rock” groups. The instrumentation is hard to pin down as well. Take a treble laden guitar, a fat warm bass, busy drum work and you have the foundation for an interesting 13 songs. Sometimes dirty and gritty, other times polished and clean. This is 54 minutes (gasp) of intriguing song writing and intricate lyrics.

If you want an auditory challenge, or if you’re a long standing fan of this peculiar Mr. Leo, I would suggest you give this album a chance. The expansion of musical horizons is a beautiful thing – good job Lookout Records.

Seth Werkheiser – Buzzgrinder.com – seth@buzzgrinder.com

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