Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Rapid Response (Cover Artwork)

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Rapid Response (2008)

Touch and Go

As much as I dislike protesters getting arrested with excessive force, if a new Ted Leo and the Pharmacists EP comes out because of it, I'll have to allow it. Rush-recorded and quickly released to benefit those taken into custody around the RNC, the EP was recorded in a New Jersey basement and sonically sounds like the song "Living with the Living" from the Mo' Living EP. Unsurprisingly, there aren't any love songs and he downplays his indie side, favoring raw-sounding political punk. Besides the two new originals, it also includes covers from two classic punk bands: Cock Sparrer and Amebix.

The EP starts with its best song, "Paranoia (Never Enough)." With a riff alarmingly like "Born to Be Wild," it has a great hook and is catchy as all hell. One of T-Lo's most overtly political songs, and easily the best song I've ever heard written and recorded in a two-day window (sorry Fuck the Kids / Surfer fans). If it wasn't about specific recent events I wouldn't believe him. "Mourning in America," which astutely covers race as a campaign issue, would fit comfortably on Living with the Living and includes the classic slow-burning Ted Leo buildup made famous in songs like "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?"

A faithful cover of Cock Sparrer's "I Got Your Number" comes next. Not earth-shattering but the double-tracked guitar solo was a nice touch and his voice complements the song better than I have could have imagined. Faithful isn't a word I could use for the next cover, Amebix's "Nobody's Driving." The only common thread between both versions is the oddly-paced guitar part during the verses. Amebix's thrash sludge is morphed into just Ted Leo and an electric guitar, sounding like an older Billy Bragg song. It really hammers home the isolation of the lyrics and is downright creepier than the original. I would loved to hear the more elaborate version he was tinkering with mentioned in his liner notes.

Sure, it's for a good cause, but the song quality got trampled under the story / recording process behind the EP over the news wire. It could pass for something in the can for a while that he flushed with fuzz to harken back to his younger years. If you're a fan, or just a fan of the cause, buy it, cheapskate.