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"When the café doors exploded, I reacted to...reacted to you," sings Ted Leo in his nasal-core croon over James Canty's distorted guitar strum before the drums, a loping bass line, and Leo's triple guitar strum explode into the bouncing punk anthem "The Mighty Sparrow." The tune is a strong start to The Brutalist Bricks, maybe too strong.

The following cuts lack that punch. In tunes such as "Mourning In America," "Ativan Eyes," and "The Stick," the hooks are hard to find and Leo's politicking can be heavy-handed: "Of the long manipulated and the willfully dumb, you better watch what you ask for, cause someday it might just come."

Just when you think the punchy indie-punk anthems are gone, though, a song like "Even Heroes Have to Die" dials it back in with choppy guitar riffs and Leo's snappy vox. Or, on "Bottled Up in Cork," where Leo starts out singing about a United Nations resolution -- "Who believed it would be solved in a day? Nobody walked out of that building on the eight of May..." -- before stripping things down to an acoustic riff and basic drumbeat and lyrics about traveling through Europe trying to shed the embarrassment of the Bush era.

Bricks ends as snappy as is begins, balancing Leo’s Matador debut with the informed punk’d rock fans expect from the vet.

  • Album title: The Brutalist Bricks (2010)
  • Artist: Ted Leo And The Pharmacists
  • Label: Matador Records
  • Songs: (1) The Mighty Sparrow (2) Mourning in America (3) Ativan Eyes (4) Even Heroes Have To Die (5) The Stick (6) Bottled Up in Cork (7) Woke Up Near Chelsea (8) One Polaroid a Day (9) Where Was My Brain (10) Bartolomeo and the Buzzing... (11) Tuberculoids Arrive in Hop (12) Gimme the Wire (13) Last Days
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