Ted Leo + Pharmacists
Shake the Sheets
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by T.J. Simon
Coming off 2003’s breakthrough Hearts of Oak, Ted Leo + Pharmacists returns in blazing glory with Shake the Sheets, a political and edgy marriage of smart lyrics, punk instrumentation, and pop sensibility. Modern indie rock at its absolute best is displayed on the opening track Me and Mia. The song is a perfect gem that merges power pop production with lyrics that make one strive for self-improvement. Once heard, it’s the single from 2004 that is least likely to be forgotten.
Leo’s processing of America’s current war is a running theme throughout Shake the Sheets, and while he is overtly angry at the current administration, he is unwilling to wallow in despair. He searches for a leader with courage on the intense The One Who Got Us Out, and he calls for a new beginning via the electoral process on the relentless title track. The knowledge that Leo has an enlisted cousin currently stationed in Baghdad adds additional emotional heft to his always searing vocal performance.
Unfortunately, Leo chose to unleash a harder-edged swagger than was seen on the either of his previous two efforts. The result is that, throughout the collection’s 11 tracks, his weighty vocals become mired within the heaviness the guitar onslaught. This is a particular shame since Leo is one of the smartest and sharpest poets penning tunes today, though at least a lyric sheet is included with the album. Nevertheless, there are enough melodic mid-tempo numbers mixed in with the thrash —Counting Down the Hours or Walking to Do, for example — that Shake the Sheets ultimately features a little something for everyone to enjoy.
Shake the Sheets is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box