Friday, December 25, 2009

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Fortunately, I planned ahead and caught the sold-out Ted Leo and the Pharmacists show on Sunday, December 6th at The Bowery Ballroom; " can count on one hand the amount of live acts currently playing venues like that one better than the Pharmacists." The Village Voice. And, like every time I've seen Ted Leo in the past, the show was energized and arresting. And this show was that and more, a lot more. Teddy and the band played 23 songs and were on stage for 90+ minutes. I never did follow Ted Leo's first number of bands (Puzzlehead, Animal Crackers, Citizens Arrest or Chisel), though I believe I did see the short lived incarnation of Sin-Eaters at Brownies back in the mid-nineties -- I think he performed with his youngest brother Danny at that show (full disclosure: I'm good friends with Teddy's two younger brothers both exceptional songwriter/musicians in their own right). However, I have been a long-time fan of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, ever since their second record The Tyranny of Distance (2001). Since then, I've seen TLatP a dozen times and he never disappoints. This show featured a ton of older familiar material; he opened with 3 songs from the album Shake the Sheets (2004), closed with two songs off Tyranny of Distance and mixed in 5 songs from Hearts of Oak (2003). All first rate recordings capturing Ted Leo's unique brand of three-chord pop punk reminiscent of bands like The Jam, Buzzcocks and Green Day (another former Lookout! Records act). But the real highlight may have been all the new material Ted featured from the upcoming The Brutalist Bricks LP. "New songs included 'The Mighty Sparrow' (sounds pretty mighty), 'The Stick' (punk!), 'One Polaroid A Day' (woozy), the old/new 'Where Was My Brain,' 'Bottled and Corked,'" and the soon to be fan favorite"Even Heroes Have to Die", Matador has made this track the lead single and downloads can already be found online. You can also check out a recording of the entire 12/6/09 show at nyctaper. If there's one show I guarantee won't disappoint, it will be Ted Leo and the Pharmacists tour to support the upcoming album The Brutalist Bricks. And, be sure to plan ahead. I will.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Marcellus Hall and the Hostages

All right! So, I saw Marcellus Hall and the Hostages last Friday night at Union Hall and, at the risk of sounding too cute, the band held me hostage for their entire set. Yeah, too cute. Of course, I was a already a fan of both Mr. Hall's previous incarnations, Railroad Jerk and White Hassle. Those bands embraced a more punk blues vibe. His new work has dropped the punk and added more soul with a greater hint of southern gothic. A sort of "neo-soul" in the spirit of Bon Iver, M. Ward and Langhorne Slim. The energy and soul Marcellus Hall brings to all his music is entertaining and inspiring. Until recently, he had been performing solo and I believe most of the songs are born out of that period. However, by abandoning his solo politic and adding a band, the Hostages, it seems he has added a more rocking and uptempo sound to what are a very smart and sweet collection of songs ("Some people like to stick to their own kind, but love is elusive and blind." Broken Phone, or, "Well your the only one in this world that I adore and I'm always laughing with you, I'm not laughing at you anymore." Laughing With You). Marcellus mentioned he's going to record with the Hostages soon. I can't wait. And, I hope it means they'll be playing out in New York more soon. You will not be disappointed. It should also be mentioned that Mr. Hall is a very fine illustrator with a few New Yorker covers under his belt. Check that work out too. Like his music, it is entertaining and inspiring.