Ted Leo and the Pharmacists | The Brutalist Bricks (Matador)

It’s good to hear Leo and crew pushing the envelope a bit while remaining rooted in what they do best.

The Brutalist Bricks finds Ted Leo and the Pharmacists remaining primarily in their sonic comfort zone but also exploring some new musical ground. The hard-driving, punk-tinged power pop that the group has polished across previous efforts is in full effect, most notably on album opener “The Mighty Sparrow” and “Where Was My Brain?” Stabbing, cascading guitars punctuate “Ativan Eyes.” Recalling his formative sound, “The Stick” is Leo’s straight-punk diatribe against the mindless masses “nibbling at the carrot” instead of wielding the titular object of power.

But the unexpected aspects of The Brutalist Bricks begin to emerge on the slinky grooves of “One Polaroid A Day,” as the band brings organ, waa-waa guitar, chunky bass, and hand-claps to bear behind Leo’s incisive, pointed lyrics (You want to control everything/You are your own worst enemy/You kill the moment when you cling/Lay down your ownership and sing). The fully acoustic “Tuberculoids Arrive In Hop” is definitely uncharted territory for Leo, as is that song’s gentle use of the chirping and clicking of summer night-sound ambience. Ultimately, it’s good to hear Leo and crew pushing the envelope a bit on The Brutalist Bricks while remaining rooted in what they do best. B+ | John Shepherd

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