I was already a Ted Leo fan but, for reasons unknown, I’d never delved into Aimee Mann’s catalog; she was always circling my radar, but never a target. At any rate, these two were born to work together and I have the late, lamented Scott Miller (Game Theory, The Loud Family) to thank for planting the seeds by turning Aimee on to Ted’s work years ago. (They pay tribute to Scott, musically and lyrically, on the song “Bedtime Stories”.)
Their harmonies and songwriting are such a comfortable, natural blend that I feel like I’ve been listening to them all my life. The sharp edges of Ted’s usual intensity are nicely rounded here; he’s never been without a pop sensibility, but there’s perhaps a bit more sonic variety than you might get from a Ted/Pharmacists record—subtle strings, synth trumpets, piano, Mellotron—and it’s perfect. (All due credit as well to producer Paul Bryan and drummer Scott Seiver.) And the songs?
Yes, Tuco, they’re tight, each one as well-constructed and catchy as the last, and with enough variety to keep things interesting. They tear to bits a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Honesty Is No Excuse”, giving it such a powerful, anthemic quality that it could easily have closed the album in style; instead, it’s three away from the end because here come two more terrific originals in the queue. That’s an embarrassment of riches.
The Both offer something too often missing in the musical landscape: pop/rock with a brain and a conscience, giving equal weight to catchy, melodic, accessible songcraft and pointed, often sociopolitical lyrics. I hope they never stop.
Buy it here.
And you should also hear “Hummingbird” (via a fan’s video set to wildlife photos):