As impressive as Ted Leo has always been—both live and on record—the narrow focus of his Billy Bragg meets the Jam meets Thin Lizzy style has meant that Leo’s albums often sound kind of samey. On Living with the Living
, Leo’s first album with his new label Touch and Go, he and the other two band members who comprise the Pharmacists expand their range, drawing on the pop, soul, and reggae influences that have always lurked below the surface of Leo’s tuneful agit-punk. After bursting out of the gates with a classic
Pharmacists call-to-action, “The Sons of Cain,” Leo strings together an assortment of love songs and protest songs, each burning with his trademark passion and vocal yelp, and each delivered in a variety of styles, from the dubby “The Unwanted Things” to the speed-metal “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.” For years now, Leo has been a hero to people who miss the catchy, anthemic, politicized modern rock of decades past—and especially to people who need
music like this, given the state of the world—but Living with the Living
may be the first album on which Leo fully delivers on his potential, at once rousing the rabble and feeding their souls. Ted Leo records exclusively with his Tri-burst ES-335.