Whenever a small band adds another member, I’m suspicious. If Broken Social Scene want to add some dude in the background on third keyboards, it doesn’t really matter, but when a tight three-piece takes a fourth after years of killing it live as a trio – well, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
That’s how I felt when Ted Leo and the Pharmacists came through Regina, still touring behind 2007’s Living with the Living. I had seen the band out of town a few years earlier, and they had been incredible. Leo is the type of live performer who’ll give and give and give, working hard to bring his Clash-inspired punk-ish rock to life. In Regina, though, there was this fourth guy kicking around onstage. Leo and his rhythm-section bros had been doing fine, and the new addition wasn’t necessary in my mind.
Others disagreed with me at the time. I have to give them credit; when the band released The Brutalist Bricks this year, it was fuller and more fleshed-out sound than what the band had previously produced. Chief among those tracks was the single “Bottled Up In Cork”, a track that brings Leo’s songwriting to a new level of complexity.