Every year, one lucky pop single is by some mysterious consensus deemed acceptable to indie-rock sensibilities. When TED LEO combined “Since U Been Gone” with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” in a solo-acoustic medley for an online video performance, it effectively ratified Kelly Clarkson’s soaring Avril homage as 2005’s winner. Yet Leo seemed to be implying neither that Kelly C’s hip quotient now equals Karen O’s, nor that Williamsburg chic is as crassly commodified as American Idol–he was just enjoying the elegant simplicity of the chord changes. On Shake the Sheets (Lookout), his latest full-length, the wiry guitarist similarly toys with pop components; the falsetto chorus of “Little Dawn,” for instance, suggests affinities between the soulful side of 70s soft rock and the Clash’s version of “Police and Thieves.” Leo’s own melodies are rarely as simple as those of the mainstream hits he’s covered–rooted in Celtic lyricism, they’re required to twist and crawl though his band’s tricky rhythmic shifts. There’s a political subtext to this craftiness: uncertain times might tempt us to embrace the powerful straight-ahead thrust of pop punk, but what we really need is the kind of versatility echoed in the Pharmacists’ arty playing. –Keith Harris
Each of the last three times I played the ORANGES BAND on my radio show, the phone rang and a voice excitedly demanded to know what group it was–something that almost never happens to me. I was playing tunes from their fantastic 2002 EP, On TV, on which the chugging, chiming riffs recall underappreciated 90s rockers the Grifters. On its latest disc, The World & Everything in It (Lookout), this Baltimore combo further tightens both its songwriting and its playing: “I’ll Never Be Alone,” for instance, unfurls an indelible vocal melody over a single-minded guitar-drum throb. But “Open Air” is my pick for the summer hit of ’05: singer Roman Kuebler channels a young Paul Simon at his most sweetly nostalgic, singing “We lived downtown / It was pretty punk for kids to live downtown / Pretty punk of us to get kicked out / But we didn’t care at all.” –J. Niimi
Ted Leo/Pharmacists headline, the Oranges Band plays second, and Aloha opens. Wed 6/15, 8 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $12 in advance, $14 at the door. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tad Kubler.