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Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Shake the Sheets FOUR STARS

Brisk, insistent and cutting to the bone, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are a lean, mean rock 'n' roll machine led by the affable, clean-cut Ted Leo, a gifted songwriter, singer and incredibly adroit guitarist. One of the most breathtaking albums of 2004, Shake the Streets sprints out of the chute and never looks back. The band's fourth album on Lookout Records is also one of its most overtly political, attacking current social trends with Leo's typically nimble and streetwise word play: "When you can't afford a broken nose / How can you afford to fight?" Yet it manages to pull off the neatest trick of all: a political album that doesn't sound especially political. While not lacking in intensity, conviction or social awareness, Leo delivers his punches with precision and wit, avoiding the kind of sloganeering that frequently makes a well-intentioned protest song into less of a joy than a lecture. And make no mistake, Shake the Sheets is joyful (and more importantly, in these troubled times, hopeful). It will leave you more than sweaty and humming — it'll leave you thinking. — Mike Corrigan

Morrissey

You Are the Quarry THREE STARS

With each one of his new albums, it seems like Morrissey loses a little bit more of the Smiths and gains a little bit more of his own style. While his drippy drama factor remains in the same high gear, it's hardly the same as the Smiths. But come on, it's the Moz, right? It's still good.

Morrissey's latest, You Are the Quarry, is heavy-handed, preachy and elitist - and that's why I love him. The album begins with Morrissey pointing fingers on "America Is Not the World," continues throwing accusations in "Irish Blood, English Heart," then offends as many people as possible with "I Have Forgiven Jesus." Once that's all said and done, he continues to sing his usual ballads to a dark world — ranging from upbeat pop songs about death to slower, sappier ones about "all the lazy dykes." He's offensive and theatrical — in other words, the same old Morrissey. You'll enjoy a solid album of typical Morrissey songs in You Are the Quarry — that is, if you make it past the first three unscathed. — Leah Sottile

Publication date: 1/13/04

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