Ted Leo & the Pharmacists: Shake the Sheets

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
Shake the Sheets
(Lookout!)

Wow. At this point I’m ashamed to say this is the first Ted Leo album I’ve allowed myself to listen to. Not for any good reason, though; I thought perhaps Ted Leo & the Pharmacists were a trite and overhyped punk-pop group without having heard or seen them. I started to come around when I heard “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?” from Hearts of Oak on a mix CD a friend made. That was a pretty good song on – from what I hear – a pretty good album. After listening to Shake the Sheets a good number of listens, and there were many, and they were all enjoyable, I know better now. On this record, they come off as an incredibly tight band. It’s almost surprising that Ted Leo isn’t playing guitar, bass and drums simultaneously while singing. What they produce is incredibly infectious, and 42 minutes of them somehow isn’t quite satiating.

Ted Leo’s music is certainly smart, but his lyrics are even smarter. English Lit majors will delight in trying to crack the koans that are his songs. While his personal lyrics are fairly cryptic, Ted Leo does not mince words when it comes to politics; he’s “worried for [his] tired country.” Much bolder in “Shake the Sheets,” he declares: “I want to take it to the president, him and all his cabinet, with a broom. I want to sweep the Halls of Arrogance, sweep the walls of the excrement of these baboons.”

I don’t know that anyone else has portrayed their frustration with the Bush administration so elegantly.