Ted Leo‘s The Brutalist Bricks — released last week on Matador — differs substantially from its predecessor, 2007’s Living With the Living, and that’s a good thing.
Overall, where Living felt rigid and disconnected, Bricks is concise, focused, and full of the things we love about Ted Leo. The politics are there (he wouldn’t be Ted Leo without them), but so is the creativity, the genuine affection, the righteous guitar work, and the charming vocals.
Let’s call The Brutalist Bricks a return to form. Many fans, myself included, worried that Living signaled a more generic direction for the New Jersey-based songwriter. The sprawling album, while certainly not bad, never really gripped me and often felt disjointed. Token cute tracks seemed thrown in to break up the monotony. An inexplicable reggae/dub song was buried somewhere in the middle. Living With the Living played more like a compilation than a proper album.
Living With the Living also felt too serious, so it’s reassuring to see Leo having more fun on The Brutalist Bricks. Take “Bottled in Cork,” for example: Leo opens with a reference to a U.N. resolution, seemingly taking the song in a wonkish political direction, but the second you think he’s gone overboard, the song takes an unexpectedly carefree turn. Soon, he’s singing about his sister who “just had a kid.” Similarly, on “One Polaroid,” he chides an aspiring artist for wanting to “control everything,” but his jabs are juxtaposed with an upbeat tempo and lighthearted handclaps that sound like camera snaps.
With The Brutalist Bricks, Leo seems to have taken his own advice and let go of the reins a little. Listening to the record, you can almost see that Ted Leo grin (evidenced above).
You can pick up The Brutalist Bricks over at the Matador site — or at one of his upcoming shows (recommended). If he comes to your town (such as Minneapolis, tonight), I’d strongly suggest that you take the time to see him live. You won’t regret it.
Ted Leo tour dates
Mar 15, 2010 – First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN
Mar 18, 2010 – The Blvd – Spokane, WA
Mar 19, 2010 – Neumos – Seattle, WA
Mar 20, 2010 – The Doug Fir – Portland, OR
Mar 21, 2010 – The Doug Fir – Portland, OR
Mar 23, 2010 – Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
Mar 24, 2010 – Soho Restaurant and Music Club Club – Santa Barbara, CA
Mar 26, 2010 – The Glasshouse – Pomona, CA
Mar 27, 2010 – Troubadour – West Hollywood, CA
Mar 28, 2010 – Club Congress – Tucson, AZ
Mar 30, 2010 – House of Blues Dallas – Dallas, TX
Mar 31, 2010 – The Parish – Austin, TX
Apr 2, 2010 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA
Apr 3, 2010 – Club Downunder @ FSU – Tallahassee, FL
Apr 4, 2010 – Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
Apr 5, 2010 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC
Apr 7, 2010 – First Unitarian Church – Philadelphia, PA
Apr 8, 2010 – 9:30 CLUB – Washington
Apr 9, 2010 – The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza – New York, NY
Apr 10, 2010 – Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA