Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

Anyone who was lucky enough to see Ted Leo and the Pharmacists live over the last year or so got an advance preview of some of the songs that make up THE BRUTALIST BRICKS. I was at a more than a few of those shows, and let me just say that as someone who has witnessed some of the most important rock shows in the last twenty-plus years* I could not believe what my eyes were seeing and my ears were hearing.
So many times bands play ‘the new stuff’ and it’s time to pull out the old iPhone and check your fantasy basketball stats. But these songs sent a shock of genuine excitement through the crowd, as if the band was cranking out an old favorite like “Me and Mia” or “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?”. I was even a little suspicious - you know how when you see a band and they play something so good that it just has to be a cover? That’s how I felt about hearing “Where Was My Brain?” and “Bottled In Cork” for the first time. Surely these were not new songs!

But when Ted Leo himself told me post-show that they were among the new stuff, I knew what I had to do. I sat the band down, looked them in the eye and said with songs like that on deck, the new Ted Leo and the Pharmacists record was theirs to lose and they better not mess it up.***

I am happy to say that they most certainly Brought It. From the opening facepunch of “The Mighty Sparrow” to the thank-you-goodnight stomp of “Last Days” THE BRUTALIST BRICKS is a ripper that distills all that TL/Rx have been working towards over the last decade into thirteen monster tracks.

I know what you’re saying – what makes it so great, loudmouth? Well, jerk, it starts with the songs. While I love all the preceding TL/Rx records like they were related to me, this baker’s dozen is inarguably the strongest batch that Ted has ever assembled. There are straight up HITS on this thing. From “One Polaroid A Day” to “Bottled In Cork” To “Even Heroes Have To Die” and beyond, this album is stuffed with straight-up capital C Classics.

But enough about Ted - how about the Pharmacists? Could they be more in the pocket?**** Chris Wilson’s drumming has never sounded better. Marty Key holds down the Thud Stick***** it owes him money. And James Canty is Mr. Everything, taking the songs to another level with his whipsmart guitar and keyboardings. Ted is the anchor, but the Pharmacists are the reason the whole thing crushes like it does.

As a fan of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, THE BRUTALIST BRICKS is everything I hoped they would bring to their Matador debut. It’s the intersection of songs and performance from a band that embodies the perfect synthesis of head and heart. Music is generally a case of individual taste, but if you don’t like this record the only thing I can think is that you’re wrong and kinda stupid and I don’t want anything to do with you.******

--Tom Scharpling (Famous Television Writer and Radio Host)

*Um, the first night of A.R.M.S Concert at Madison Square Garden, anyone?**

** What, you don’t remember the A.R.M.S. concert?! Clapton? Ron Wood? Jimmy Page doing songs from the DEATH WISH II soundtrack? Doesn’t the debut of what would become The Firm mean anything anymore?

*** I have since been told this is not how things ‘went down’.

**** No!

***** That’s right, the Thud Stick. You might know it as a bass guitar.

****** Unless you have a board tape of the December 9th 1983 A.R.M.S. concert? Anyone?


Katie Crutchfield’s southern roots are undeniable. The name of her solo musical project Waxahatchee comes from a creek not far from her childhood home in Alabama and seems to represent both where she came from and where she’s going. Since leaving home, Crutchfield has drifted between New York and Philadelphia but chose to return to Alabama to write her first two albums: American Weekend, her debut filled with powerful lo-fi acoustic tracks full of lament, and Cerulean Salt, a more developed and solid narrative about growing up. Both are representations of a youthful struggle with unresolved issues and unrequited feelings.

Waxhatchee’s latest record, Ivy Tripp, drifts confidently from these previous albums and brings forth a more informed and powerful recognition of where Crutchfield has currently found herself. The lament and grieving for her youth seem to have been replaced with control and sheer self-honesty. “My life has changed a lot in the last two years, and it’s been hard for me to process my feelings other than by writing songs,” says Crutchfield. “I think a running theme [of Ivy Tripp] is steadying yourself on shaky ground and reminding yourself that you have control in situations that seem overwhelming, or just being cognizant in moments of deep confusion or sadness, and learning to really feel emotions and to grow from that.”

Recorded and engineered by Kyle Gilbride of Wherever Audio at Crutchfield’s home on New York’s Long Island—with drums recorded in the gym of a local elementary school—Ivy Tripp presents a more developed and aged version of Waxahatchee. “The title Ivy Tripp is really just a term I made up for directionless-ness, specifically of the 20-something, 30-something, 40-something of today, lacking regard for the complaisant life path of our parents and grandparents. I have thought of it like this: Cerulean Salt is a solid and Ivy Tripp is a gas.”

Crutchfield is accompanied by both Gilbride and Keith Spencer on Ivy Tripp, and the record was produced by all three of them. With the addition of more guitar work, piano, drum machines, and Crutchfield’s vocals in full bloom, we are given a record that feels more emphatic and pronounced. Ivy Tripp opens with “Breathless,” filled with only a distorted keyboard and layers of vocals, showcasing Waxahatchee’s pension for quiet, personal reflection. The record then opens up into “Under a Rock,” a quicker guitar-driven song that lays the foundation for the rest of the album, which as a whole resonates with strong, self-aware lyrics, energetic ballads, and powerfully hushed moments of solitude. Crutchfield’s voice is certainly the guiding force behind Ivy Tripp—commanding and voluminous in the rock song “Poison,” candied and pure in the frolicking “La Loose”—gripping you tightly and then softly releasing you into the wilds of emotion.

As far as her goals with Ivy Tripp, Crutchfield says, “I heard someone say that you have to be the change you want to see. I just want to be the kind of musician I want to see in the world. I want to present myself in a way that reflects that.”



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