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Violent Soho & Ted Leo & The Pharmacists 

CD Reviews: Violent Soho & The Brutalist Bricks

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Violent Soho, Violent Soho
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Queensland, Australia, quartet Violent Soho are the latest signing by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore to his Ecstatic Peace label. After three EPs and the full-length We Don’t Belong Here, their eponymous formal introduction to the indie-rock crowd is a workmanlike set of grungy garage rock riffs, promising a rousing live show. VS opened for Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill, Dead Weather and a slew of other heavy hitters last year; the band is slated to appear at SXSW this month. If this doesn’t turn into the new grunge retro fad, you can shave the beard off that I wish I were able to grow.

“Jesus Stole My Girlfriend” is the single, rising to No. 27 on the Billboard alternative charts, and that title is a good indication of the wink-wink attempt at subversion a la Sonic Youth that is partially derailed by a mosh-pit-induced-brain-injury level of stupefaction. Still, this kind of musical energy might be able to bring moshing back. From Australia, are they? Is this the 2010 Silverchair? They’re literally wearing their flannel on their sleeves, but at least it’s refreshing to hear a band that didn’t record their album on a MacBook. (Ecstatic Peace/Universal)

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, The Brutalist Bricks
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The Brutalist Bricks brings Ted Leo & The Pharmacists to the Matador label, and this incarnation of the band is in hypercharged emo mode, even though it’s not strictly fitting into the emo genre of music. It’s not thick as a brick, but at a good decade-plus in existence, the circa-1999 Washington, D.C., band’s sound is stripped-down, polished, slick and ready to run some time trials. In fact, the disc feels a little too brisk, if not brutal, from the starting blocks until it settles into a comfortable rhythm by the fourth song, the political “Even Heroes Have to Die.” It’s not an anomaly, given Leo’s 2008 surprise EP Rapid Response, a response to violence at the 2008 Republican National Convention, supporting the Democracy Now! radio program and Food Not Bombs! of St. Paul, Minn.

Perhaps the song “Ativan Eyes,” in reference to anti-anxiety medication, holds a clue to this music’s confidence and effortless; it’s almost too effortlessness. Those of us who don’t like things such as too-flawless or perfect music like to savor the clouds in the coffee. A musical remedy for anxiety could also cause the same condition by its very brashness. Ted Leo’s high-drama tone of voice could fit in the New Romantics movement of the ’80s; there’s a kind of classicism, a high formalism that has made him an indie-rock statesman and also spokesperson, but not a voice that can be probed very deeply. Pharmacist, prescribe thyself. (Matador)

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