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Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: The Brutalist Bricks (Matador) 

Whichever fountain Ted Leo draws his energy from has an endless and remarkably consistent stream, rich in the sort of intensity that passes easily from singer to audience.

The Brutalist Bricks is more of his signature brand of surging, thinking-man's punk rock, with soaring melodies to counterbalance the cranked amps and pummeling drums.

Opening track "The Mighty Sparrow" starts with a buzzing guitar and Leo shouting, "When the café doors exploded, I reacted too, reacted to you." Leo instantly has the listener in his grasp.

"Mourning in America" is among the best of Leo's politically oriented songs, turning Reagan's famous campaign slogan on its head as scalding criticism of the country's "long manipulated and the willfully dumb."

But Leo offers up more encouragement than criticism: "I'm so sick of cynics, and I want something to trust in" ("Ativan Eyes"), "A little goodwill goes a mighty long way" ("Bottled in Cork"), and, "I know I've been missing, but I feel the change we've been waiting on" (on "Bartolomeo and the Buzzing of Bees").

Except for a couple of detours—the dubby "One Polaroid a Day" and the dreamy "Tuberculoids Arrive in Hop"—Leo sticks to his strengths, with unwavering passion. This is a rush of an album, brisk, forceful and righteously energetic.

More by Eric Swedlund

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