Particularly when the guy's been breathlessly compared to everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Elvis Costello. Particularly when indier-than-thou crit-punks are creaming their shorts trying to sign up for his fan club. Particularly when the artist in question was a headliner on the Jesus-that's-a-sore-spot Concerts for Kerry tour.
At times like these, what you'd like to do is launch into another of those patented, profanity-laced rants you've become so accustomed to in the past few days. What you'd like to do is suggest to the prima donna that he and his losing pally John Kerry go take a romantic windsurf in the fiery oceans of hell. But it's Ted Leo you're writing about, and try as you might, it's really damned hard to avoid cutting the guy a serious break.
I mean, he didn't cause your broke ass to get ditched. Hell, when the guy's not on tour, he lives with his parents in Jersey, 'cause he's too hard up himself to spring for the full-fledged NYC lifestyle. Leo tours like a for-real journeyman, rolling out Jeff Buckley-style octave-hopping heroics smack dab in the middle of ball-busting punk diatribes, busing his act from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to La-La Land nearly every night of the week.
Then there's the sheer volume of damned solid material the guy produces. Leo has the lyrical acumen of a Jonathan Richman, the type of earnest, rocking Big Star-Ben Kweller likability factor that'll doubtlessly continue to pack indie palaces and college-rock play lists for years to come.
So you're trying your best to continue to be pissed off at the guy while listening to The Tyranny of Distance, when you catch yourself saying "Well, you've gotta give the guy credit for that" for the third time as "Parallel or Together" blows past you at warriorlike warp speed. Then you hear yourself saying "I hear that" on "The Angels' Share" from Shake the Sheets as Leo says of the watchful spirits, I'm not so sure I think they care. You find yourself respecting the hell out of the guy for releasing an album like Hearts of Oak, which makes you want to forget all about that girl you love and start your own raucous little sin-eating revolution.
At the end of the day, you can't help but resist the urge to take out your lost-love aggression on good ol' Ted, interview or no, because, damn it, of the five buzz bands you've written about recently, Ted Leo and his Pharmacist crew are easily the best.
Saturday, June 11, at the Jackpot Saloon