CD REVIEW Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: Sharkbite Sessions EP 

A BW online exclusive review

Sharkbite Sessions EP: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Ted Leo has proved once again that he ranks among the best when it comes to singer/songwriters in the independent music scene. He isn't your typical singer/songwriter—in fact, he plays a loud electric guitar over driving drum beats in a post-punk outfit called the Pharmacists. At his core, however, Ted Leo is indeed a singer/songwriter. His lyrics are sharp and smart and his rich voice places those lyrics front and center. The Sharkbite Sessions contains three songs—two redone off Ted's solo Tell Balgeary EP from 2003 ("Loyal to My Sorrowful Country" and Split Enz' "Six Months in a Leaky Boat") and a cover of the Stiff Little Finger's "Suspect Device."

"Loyal to My Sorrowful Country" utilizes the band's polished pop sensibility to deliver poignant lyrics about Ted's decision to no longer by loyal to our sorrowful country. Rather than being a depressed account of lost hope, this song is instead a celebratory anthem speaking for change. We get the impression that Ted is excited about progress instead of simply disturbed. So many similar songs these days capture that disappointment without insisting on hope. The final verse is as follows: "Though I've lived my bygone years/In this land, in this land/I'll uproot it without tears/And I'll change it if I can!"

These lyrics are delivered over mellowed music for emphasis and one can't help but rejoice at Ted's optimism in the face of such dismal times. It's difficult to find a similar optimism in today's other 'protest' music. Though 'Loyal' is the showcase song here, the others certainly do not disappoint. "Six Months in a Leaky Boat" is solid and serves Ted's ambitious voice well. "Suspect Device" is urgent and exciting. If you are a Ted Leo fan, you certainly will not want to miss the Sharkbite Sessions.

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