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[Off The Record]
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Ted Leo/Pharmacists

Ted Leo is a man in pursuit of the perfect pop song. And he does come up with some gems on The Tyranny of Distance. But where a simple delivery would do just fine, Leo insists on crowding his tunes with too much studio junk. For all the fuzzed-out guitar chords that adorn " Stove by a Whale " and the double-tracked leads that outfit " Under the Hedge, " Leo is at heart a singer/songwriter whose output rarely needs more than acoustic-guitar accompaniment.

The proof is in the disc’s first track, " Biomusicology, " which opens with Leo’s voice, a thin thing he forces from his lungs, fluttering into hummingbird falsettos accompanied only by naked, gnashing guitar. It sounds great. But over the course of the rest of the album, he and producer Brendan Canty (Fugazi) pile drums, bass, keys, synths, strings, congos, and handclaps into the mix, creating an unwieldy wall of sound in the Spector/Gordy tradition. Sweet moments emerge: the tremolo guitars in " Dial Up, " the doubled vocals in " Parallel or Together. " But Distance lacks the dynamics — the pauses, the releases — that Leo’s songs need.

(Ted Leo headlines upstairs at the Middle East on August 31. Call 617-864-EAST.)


Issue Date: August 16 - 23, 2001

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