Monday, December 14, 2009

Why I worship Ted Leo: reason #23

This guy writes songs about stuff that other punks wouldn't touch with a 10 foot stick. Item A is the glorious 'Me and Mia', a fiercly infectious slice of power pop that sounds ready for the whole family to enjoy. Except that it's about Ted's compassion for victims of eating disorders. Yet he brings the same utterly sincere fervor to his performance as he does in his angriest agitprop rants. Or how about 'Hearts of Oak', about how difficult it is for women to break through in the rock music scene? 'St. John the Divine', about the pitfalls of anti-depression medication? Ted Leo's lyrics are fearlessly emotional. He's never been afraid of sacrificing punk credibility to show a more sensitive side, which paradoxically endows his more political pieces with even greater power. Perhaps my favorite 'emo' Ted Leo moment is 'Sons of Cain', the first song on his last album, Living With The Living. I got so swept up in the roaring guitars, ferocious vocals, and break-neck rhythm of the song that it wasn't until months after first hearing the song that I realized it's about Ted mourning the loss of a partner, with the most tenderly melancholy lyrics imaginable. Yet the performance remains punk to the core, no power ballads for Leo. And the result is incredibly moving.

And I know I'm not to sing of fights I've missed
But alone I've got to sing just to exist!

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