Ted Leo is the Billy Bragg of the 2000′s. It’s a comparison that he doesn’t seem to like, but an apt one: he’s the thoughtful punk with a conscience, he’s content to let his lyrics do all the talking and with his Pharmacists, doesn’t try to overwhelm the solid musicianship with volume and speed. He does try to branch out on his new album, Living With The Living, but the end result is the same – another great album. There’s a lot of the Ted Leo standard of “thinking man’s punk,” but on “Bomb.Repeat.Bomb” he sounds more like Dexter Holland of the Offspring – and it’s better than you’d think. His attempt at a reggae-influenced song, “The Unwanted Things,” is, unfortunately, not better than you’d think, but when he takes a stab at a dancier song with “The Lost Brigade,” it works, and well.
That’s not to say that the old formula isn’t still a good one. “Sons of Cain” is one of the best songs on the album, and “CIA,” which is to Living With The Living what “Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone” was to Hearts of Oak, is right up there with it. “Colleen” is a little slower, but still great, and “Annunciation Day/Born on Christmas Day” is faster, but still great. All in all, a simply great album that makes me want to pick up a sign and go protest.