On his fifth album with backing band the Pharmacists, Ted Leo continues to dole out perfect prescriptions. Living With The Living (Touch And Go) is an acidic mixture of mod pop, punk and a little bit of reggae. Always the road warrior, Leo selected songs by some of his recent touring comrades.
THE EXIT “Don’t Push” (2004)
This is a great realization of the classic punk/reggae thing, which I’m admittedly a sucker for in almost any permutation, but still. “Don’t push your love away”—what a great chorus! We played with them at Webster Hall in New York.
MAD MAN FILMS “Brother Fucker” (2004)
I saw these guys do three songs at one of the AfroPunk Liberation Sessions in NYC and was totally blown away. I managed to get them squeezed onto a bill we were playing in Boston last year, and I’m still wishing we could’ve done more shows with them. Anyway, being a honky, I’m not going to get into the politics of this song—the singer, George Zapata, does that just fine on his own—but it’ll knock your little indie-rock socks off.
LES AUS “El Guardia” (2006)
In August 2005, we played a festival in Spain and met these two dudes from Barcelona in a band called the Cheese. We sat at this outdoor veggie café across the street from the beach all day and talked and drank, and I managed to convince them to play their show in their beach clothes. Then I vowed to get them on tour over here; the night of the second U.S. show, they already had 600 kids stomping their feet and singing along with this song, which kind of just goes, “Ay-oh, ay-oh, ay-ay-oh/Ay-oh, ay-ay-oh,” at the tops of their lungs. At some point between Spain and then, they changed their name to Les Aus.
MY MORNING JACKET “It Beats 4 U” (2005)
Once again, I go on record as saying that I’m a sucker for a punky-reggae party, but MMJ takes it a step further on this song by adding in America-style mellow harmonies and the kind of trance-like loop of a riff that makes me think of the late, great Moonshake. We didn’t technically “play with” MMJ, but we both performed at Coachella last year.
DAFT PUNK “Human After All” (2005)
This is another Coachella experience that I’m counting as “played with,” because after watching their set, I need to know that I can go to my grave saying that I played “with” Daft Punk and have it be an accepted half-truth. I can’t even start to get into how life-changing Daft Punk’s set was, but I’ll just take this track from their album of the same name and say that it still gives me chills and kind of chokes me up every time I hear it. How can a robot sing, “We are human, after all/Much in common, after all,” with more emotion than an actual human ever could?
THE DC SNIPERS “All Humans Are Garbage” (2006)
A band from Jersey drinks more than we do and writes killer Paul Revere And The Raiders-meets-the Damned punk rock? Sign. Me. Up. Now. We had the immense pleasure of playing with them at South Street Seaport in NYC in August.
CALEXICO “Deep Down” (2006)
What a way to end the Touch And Go 25th-anniversary festival. Calexico struck all the right emotional chords and provided the perfect denouement to a long, loud, wet and kind of chilly weekend. “Deep Down,” from Garden Ruin, is a stinging indictment of a populace that goes along with the flow in trying times and allows things to be done in their name that they know, deep down, are evil. I can’t quite figure out why they chose to write that song just now … I mean … I can’t really see how that applies to current reality. But whatever: It’s catchy, and you can dance to it.
BULLSEYE “Into The Exit” (2006)
We started a tour last year in Northampton, Mass., by playing a benefit for the Flywheel Arts Collective. This amazing band opened. They’re kind of like if Guided By Voices wrote longer songs—or maybe if the Pixies wrote shorter ones—but with all the wide-eyed enthusiasm and frustrated snottiness of, like, 11- and 12-year-olds. Oh, by the way, did I mention that they’re all 11 and 12 years old? What the hell were you doing at that age? I don’t even want to get into what I was doing.