Release Date: Mar 20, 2007
Record label: Touch & Go
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Review Summary: New material from D.C. artist Ted Leo impresses and pleases through first two thirds, falls apart and drones on through final section.Everything had been going fine for Ted Leo leading up to the release of Living With the Living; in 2006 he had signed the group to Steve Albini's label Touch & Go which sounded like a match made in heaven, James Canty had been re added to the lineup as a second guitarist/keyboardist , and the lead single, "Sons of Cain", had been leaked at just the right time to satisfy the masses at the time. In addition to the personnel changes and additions, the anticipation to hear a new release had been at an all time high.
When it comes to consistency, Ted Leo is the man. When it comes to writing songs bristling with nervy energy and sincere conviction that inspire, question, and reflect, there are only a few of his peers that can really measure up. Living with the Living marks full-length number five for Leo and his crew of Pharmacists, and it's another literate and stirring collection of songs built around his sweetly elastic voice and tightly wound guitars.
Nearly three years have elapsed since Ted Leo's last album, Shake the Sheets, a hiatus that can be attributed partly to Lookout Records' demise, partly to a ceaseless touring schedule, and partly to other projects (Leo's been writing music for a play about United Fruit Company, the CIA and Guatemala). As a result, Living with the Living was written over an abnormally long period, one in which Leo had leisure to think about many different kinds of music -- reggae and punk, pop and soul, Celtic folk, hardcore and Jam-style mod-rock. So, where elements of these styles have been lodged in previous Leo albums, in the ska-style backbeat of "Rude Boys" or the Irish lilt of "Bleeding Powers," here they take over entire songs.
Ted Leo doesn't wear his politics on his sleeve. He's got them tattooed across his forehead. It's little surprise, then, that for someone closer to 40 than 30, the onetime NYC hardcore punker is more concerned with being a voice of dissent than the soundtrack to a car commercial. In fact, Leo's fifth LP with his trio the Pharmacists, Living With the Living, echoes the SXSW 06 showcaser who cynically wished his audience a happy anniversary of the Iraq war.