Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Hearts of Oak

(Lookout; 2003)

By Amir Nezar | 9 October 2007

There's one thing that makes Ted Leo so damned successful - his earnestness and energy. In his heart, he's the kid who should've been the guitarist/vocalist for Fugazi, and he is, when all is said and done, just your good friend the music punk who loves what he does. See him on the back of the CD case? He's running, a blur. Enthusiastic and genuine. His live shows do nothing but confirm it, and his down-to-earth, humble nature can only make him more endearing. Oh yeah, and he's pretty damn good songwriter and guitarist to boot.

Who can listen to "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone," and not love that coda at the end? Who can doubt that the neat little guitar solo in "I'm a Ghost" in the middle of the track is messy, inspired genius? How can you not love that voice, trembling and straining to hit the high notes? And while this album may not be revolutionary in any sense, it is rock in all its best senses. Incorporating bits of punk, old-days FM radio, loud guitars, and intimate, welcoming accessibility, it makes you feel good, and it is so hugely unpretentious that you can grab the disc and be free of posturing, because Leo just doesn't care for it. Sure, it has a couple dead-in-the water tracks ("The Ballad of the Sin Eater" and "Dead Voices") but the excellence of most of its tracks makes up for it and makes this, through and through, just a solid, enjoyable rock record.