Ted Leo and the Pharmacists experiment with a shaky foundation to cement the solid ‘Brutalist Bricks’

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists with Kevin Seconds and Broncho
9 p.m. Wednesday
Opolis
113 N. Crawford, Norman
http://www.opolis.org
447-3417
$14, $16 under 21

Ted Leo spent the first half of the ’90s fronting indie-punk and hard-core outfits like Chisel and Citizens Arrest. As the decade wound down, he started work on a solo side project, which eventually sailed under his own flag, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.

Touring for the first time as a solo act, Leo remembers a show he booked “at a pizza place in Norman.”

It’s probably good that he’s forgotten the venue’s name.

Leo showed up with the two other groups he was touring with, but neither an audience nor a PA system ever showed up. The girl who booked the show was making frantic calls on a pay phone when the guy who was supposed to bring the sound system showed up. He didn’t arrive for soundcheck; he came for an armful of pizzas to bring back to a house party, which was already raging with tunes supplied by the missing PA system.

“He was like, ‘You guys can come play at my party if you want,'” Leo said. “I thought, ‘You know what? I’m already too old for this. Fuck you and your party.'”

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are back in Norman tonight for a 9 p.m. show at Opolis.

In March, the outfit released its sixth studio effort, “The Brutalist Bricks,” which came together in the three-year album gap that followed “Living with the Living.”

Leo said the band initially started recording many of the “Brutalist” songs for Touch and Go Records, which released the previous album. In 2009, the label downsized, leaving Leo and his fellow musicians caught in the flux.

“If we’d been recording at home, it wouldn’t have been a big deal,” Leo says, “but it started in a studio, so we kind of had to finish it there.”

Neither Leo or any of his bandmates had enough money to finish the album on their own, so The Pharmacists concentrated on playing shows, which included performing many of the tracks in limbo. There, the songs evolved, Leo said, as the guys refined and “edited” the songs onstage.

“What we’d recorded in the past wasn’t even an accurate depiction of the record at that point,” Leo said, “so it just made sense to go in and do it again.”

Despite the long, convoluted path from idea to album, “Brutalist Bricks” sounds more immediate and urgent than “Living with the Living.” Combined with its bonus EP, “Mo’ Living,” that’s roughly two dozen tracks, but it was “meant to be long,” Leo said.

But the drawn-out writing, editing and arranging process, when combined with a relatively short, “hit-and-run” studio stint where they re-recorded the songs for Matador Records, “Brutalist” afforded The Pharmacists more time than usual to play and tinker.

“Even though this is a more concise album, it involved a little more experimentation,” Leo said.

top photo/Matias Corral
bottom photo/Shawn Brackbill

Joe Wertz

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