The Tyranny of Distance (Lookout!)
by Tim Den
I’ve heard Ted Leo‘s first solo record and most of Chisel’s (his former band) output, but I don’t remember any of it being as jaw-droppingly impressive as this. Right off the bat, opener “Biomusicology” recalls everything that’s perfect in pop/rock/garage/’60s “sound” without being retro or rehashed. The guitar chimes like a canary; each chord/string struck sounding as if tinged with clashing silver. The vocals cut through the what-would’ve-otherwise-been-predictable major progressions like a hand ripping off a mask, revealing a whole new view underneath to take in. And in what fashion! Ted Leo’s tenor croon has never sounded more vibrant, more energetic, more passionate, more visceral. His melodic imagination through the roof, every syllable he utters hits the mark dead-center, pushing every guitar riff’s boundary ’til he gets the best usage out of it. And don’t get me started on his guitar playing! If only The Byrds, Small Faces, The Jam, and The Kinks realized how much guitar pop could’ve benefited with more attention to the instrument it was named after. Listen to “Timorous Me” and tell me Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden wouldn’t be jealous. Just try.
There are moments of weakness, like when Leo abandons his clever lyrical machine gun and superb melodies for over-wrought heaviness (“Stove by a Whale”), but that’s what the fast forward button is for. Overall, The Tyranny of Distance has wiped out the need for any more guitar-pop bands in one single, graceful swoop. Ted Leo/Pharmacists have created the ultimate modern garage pop album, and I doubt anything/anyone will cram as much substance into this genre ever again.
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