Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Lord, this boy's good. Ted Leo's quick, muscular guitar-pop is just the kind of rock-saving sound my younger self used to believe was bound to be huge any day now. It isn't, of course, and that's a goddamned shame. But that don't mean it won't feel colossal when the man rocks Houston. He bashes out great speedy tunes without seeming antic; his writing's more pop than punk, but the sound buzzes and crunches with toughened melodies. As fine as Leo's singing is -- his voice yowls, always scraping into falsetto -- it's his guitar that gets the tunes over. In the space of one typical song, it's broad and brash, then it's a rip of bee-sting arpeggios, then a cascade of mighty rock-hero chords (minus any rock-hero fussiness). On record, the hooks snag and don't let up; live, you're just his bitch.

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