Monday, May 7th, 2007
Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.
Had it really been two and a half years since Ted Leo & The Pharmacists were last in our fair city? I can’t recall his playing a show here since the December 2004 show at the Mod Club though that would coincide with the release of his last album, Shake The Sheets. It’s hard to fathom someone with Leo’s work ethic – both in the studio and on the road – taking that long a break, and yet there it is. But hey, you know what they say about absence, hearts and fungus – so when Ted finally did come back to town last Wednesday, a packed Mod Club was there to greet him.
I’d seen the name of local openers Tusks around town a fair bit but had never heard them, or at least I thought not. It turns out they have a song on the Friends In Bellwoods comp… what can I say? I’m not good with names. But either way, I was really impressed with their brief set. The four-piece did a great job of blending jazzy-math rock sounds and figures with direct, melodic pop sensibilities. The track they’ve got on their MySpace is a bit rough sounding – they’re really much smoother – but gives a good sense of what these guys are about. I dig, and look forward to hearing more.
Australian trio Love Of Diagrams had been touring with Leo for a while and reminded me of a less-angry Mission Of Burma if they had been signed to Flying Nun in the ’80s. Their take on post-punk was taut, jagged and skittery yet friendly and danceable and came across a lot better live than on record, as their latest Mosaic failed to really engage me the few times I listened. That’s less a reflection on the quality of the record, however, than the fact that it’s a sound/style that I’m just not especially interested in these days.
I say this every time I see him play live, but Ted Leo is the hardest-working man in indie rock. Besides the fact that he keeps up an insane touring regimen, year in and year out, you know that for every one of those shows he’s giving everything he’s got. Fronting his now-four piece gang of Pharmacists (Ted needs a second guitarist? Blasphemy!), Leo tore through a set of mainly the uptempo numbers in his vast catalog of songs, which admittedly describes almost all of them, but these were the FAST fast ones. The pace of the show was electric and unrelenting, leaving pretty much everyone both on stage and in front of it worn out after 90 minutes – even the young’ns (all ages show, natch).
And though he hadn’t been in town in a while, Leo’s engaging demeanor made it feel like an old friend stopping over to hang out, chat and rock the house. A shout-out to the New Jersey Nets garnered a little booing, but it was all in jest as he confessed that he didn’t really give a damn about basketball one way or another though as karmic payback, he whacked his head on the microphone on the next song (his brother Chris, however, successfully jinxed the Raptors a couple nights later by doing the same thing probably at exactly the moment Richard Jefferson intercepted that pass… but I digress). It was also a nice touch dedicating “Dirty Old Town” to Hamilton, whether or not he meant it in a complimentary sense.
One of the complaints leveled against Leo’s latest Living With The Living (alliteration!) is that it’s more of the same from him – the same could be said for his live show, though I see it more as praise than criticism. What some bands wouldn’t give to be able to maintain a level of quality as consistent as he has over the course of this decade. Alls I know is that if you were to tell me that the next time Ted comes through town, he’ll put on a show equal to this one – no better and no worse – all I’d want to know is where to get in line.
Update: Thanks to Dave for pointing out that Ted was in town just last Fall opening up the two nights at Massey Hall for Death Cab and for also completely undermining the foundation of my post. Awesome.
Photos: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, Love Of Diagrams, Tusks @ The Mod Club – May 2, 2007
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “Bomb Repeat Bomb (1954)”
MP3: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – “The Sons Of Cain”
MP3: Love Of Diagrams – “Pace Or The Patience”
MP3: Love Of Diagrams – “No Way Out”
Video: Love Of Diagrams – “No Way Out” (MOV)
MySpace: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
MySpace: Love Of Diagrams
Some new media making the rounds: The first video from The National’s Boxer, out May 22, went up Friday at the US-only MTV but is supposed to be available today on YouTube – I will update the link below when it is. And note that all the live preview clips from the A Skin, A Night film are now up at the Boxer minisite. They’re at the Opera House on June 5.
Video: The National – “Mistaken For Strangers” (YouTube)
Video: Low – “Belarus” (YouTube)
And there’s also more MP3s available from the new Midnight Movies album Lion The Girl – the first is maybe the hardest rocking moment on the album, the other a remix by James Iha of the first single. Both worth hearing.