Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

It's virtually impossible to figure out how Ted Leo became, you know, Ted Leo. Born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Leo graduated from Seton Hall Prep and received a degree in English from Notre Dame. He is now a strict vegan and plays socially conscious punk music. (We didn't think they even allowed vegans on the Notre Dame campus.)

Leo broke through with his 2001 release, The Tyranny of Distance, and hit it big a couple of years later with Hearts of Oak. The single, "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" is one of the catchiest songs you've never heard, an affectionate ska/punk (skunk?) rave-up that is equal parts Sex Pistols and the Specials. Shake the Sheets (2004) offered the same pleasing sonic diversity, roving from lush balladry to joyous Celtic stomp, with about twice the bile, most of it directed at the crimes undertaken by the Bush administration. About time.

Leo and his backing band (basically a rhythm section) are touring in support of the new disc, Living With the Living, though hardcore fans can hope the boys will bust out their buoyant cover of the Split Enz chesnut "Six Months in a Leaky Boat." Go Irish!

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Steven Almond

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