Ted Leo / Pharmacists
Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead
Ted Leo has long been one of indie rock’s “most likely to,” first with DC new wave punks Chisel, but lately as Ted Leo/Pharmacists. The Tyranny of Distance was one of 2001’s best-kept secrets in indie rock, causing enough of an industry stir to ensure overwhelming attention when Hearts of Oak followed in early 2003, another well-received artistic success.
Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead is a 9-track mini-album, and a way to please his most impatient fans until the next “real” album’s out. It’s an unpretentious collection of already available material (the title track), a re-recorded song (“The High Party”), some new and stripped-down solo songs (“The Sword in the Stone,” “Bleeding Powers” and “Loyal to My Sorrowful Country”) and a few cover versions effectively mapping out his musical heritage (The Posies’ “Dirty Old Town,” The Jam’s “Ghosts” and, a tad surprisingly, Split Enz’s “Six Months in a Leaky Boat”).
Ted Leo’s frantic delivery and expressive playing is very much in place, but this release relies more heavily on his lyrics than his musical performance. Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead stresses his politically-aware qualities, portraying him as an American counterpart to UK’s Billy Bragg. It’s certainly not a far-fetched comparison, as Ted Leo conjures up images not only of Bragg, but also of Paul Westerberg, a young Paul Weller and even his folkie hero Woody Guthrie.
As an EP to fill the days until his next full-length, this is a fine enough release. The casual nature of the disc doesn’t hold a candle to his last two albums, but even when he’s just messing about, Ted Leo is far more interesting than most current indie rockers. Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead is mainly of interest to those familiar with his former work; everyone else should start by checking out The Tyranny of Distance and Hearts of Oak, both of which demonstrate his true capacities as songwriter and performer.
Lookout! Records: http://www.lookoutrecords.com/