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Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

For most of the '90s, Ted Leo sang for the punky DC rock band Chisel, becoming a bit of an indie icon as the passionate gravel-voiced mouthpiece for the group's raw soul politics. The band split in 1997 and Leo moved on to start the short-lived Sin Eaters with his brother Danny and Van Pelt bassist Sean Greene. In 1999, he recorded a solo record, the enigmatically titled Tej (?) Leo Rx/Pharmacists on Gern Blandsten Records, which saw him move away some from his straight-from-the-heart soulful punk lyricism towards studio experimentation.

But Leo put the tape loops and samples to rest for his next effort, for which he recruited live Pharmacists, in the form of guitarist James Canty (Nation of Ulysses, Make Up), bassist Jody Buonanno (Secret Stars), and drummer Amy Farina (The Warmers). The quartet released a five-song EP titled Treble in Trouble which sounded a bit like Chisel -- rough-edged, punky, soulful rock songs slightly reminiscent of The Jam, including the featured "Come Baby Come."

Leo and his crew of Pharmacists followed that with a full-length on Lookout! in 2001. The Tyranny of Distance featured Canty on guitar again, as well as members of Trans Am, Golden, Tsunami, and Telegraph Melts.

2003 appears to be the year of the Ted Leo, who ushered in the year by playing a tribute to his fallen hero Joe Strummer, and has since gone on to sell out numerous shows and even play on TV, all on the strength of his magnificent Lookout! album Hearts of Oak. Leo and friends recorded the album after the departure of James Canty, but that didn't slow down the crew a bit. Leo's describes the album himself quite succinctly: "I consider myself a perpetual English major, but I also get into bar fights."