Sunday, July 31, 2022

Oddly Poetic: Killing Joke, "Revelations"

I first heard Killing Joke courtesy of Metallica’s 1987 The $5.98 E.P.—Garage Days Re-Revisited. On that five-song budget EP, Metallica shared their take on “The Wait,” gleaned from Killing Joke’s 1980 self-titled album. Even though I bought this compact disc in 2016, I hadn’t spent much time absorbing Killing Joke’s approach to music over the intervening years until listening to this record this afternoon.

Remastered and reissued in 2005, Revelations is the band’s third album, originally released in 1982. The reissue, digitally remastered by Steve Rooke at Abbey Road Studios in London, contains the 11 songs originally on the album as well as a bonus track, an alternate mix of “We Have Joy.” It is also the last album featuring Killing Joke’s original lineup—until 2010’s Absolute Dissent.

At the time the record was originally released, the band comprised Jaz Coleman (vocals and synthesizer), Paul Ferguson (drums and vocals), Geordie Walker (guitar), and Youth (bass). (The much more recent Corpus Mei, recorded by Crass’ Penny Rimbaud and Youth is an exceptionally excellent record.) Recorded in Germany, the album was produced by Conny Plank, marking the first time Killing Joke didn’t produce a record themselves. (Plank had done earlier work with Neu! and Kraftwerk, so the pairing might have seemed promising.) Because I’m not a student of Killing Joke, I cannot remark on any differences that his production introduced.

On the whole, the record is darkly tribal post-punk, with the drum and bass offering a compelling undercurrent to the largely discordant, jagged, angular guitar work. Ferguson’s dramatic vocals and synthesizer work are a highlight of the record, indicating the influence Killing Joke would have on later darkwave, gothic, and industrial acts. 

The first four songs of Revelations—“The Hum,” “Empire Song,” “We Have Joy,” and “Chop Chop”—are an awesome introduction to the band and album. “Empire Song” was released as a single and performed on Top of the Pops on television, though without Coleman. Then the record lands on “The Pandy’s Are Coming,” an oddly poetic song, before returning to “Chapter III,” which is more in line with the earlier songs.

The next three songs on the record diverge slightly, still offering darkly tribal post-punk, but with a slightly stronger pop or rock orientation. I can hear hints of XTC in “Have a Nice Day,” while “Land of Milk and Honey” reminds me slightly of Bow Wow Wow. “Good Samaritan” includes a Marvel Comics reference (“a Hawkheaded man”) and resonates with “The Pandy’s Are Coming”—another odd, surreal song, and one of the most somnolent songs about happiness that I’ve ever heard. (Danny Elfman’s “Happy” might owe a small debt to the singing at the end of the track.) The album ends with “Dregs,” returning to the form exhibited by the first four songs and featuring largely nonsensical lyrics.

An alternate mix of “We Have Joy,” the third song, ends the reissue. The production is a little thinner, and the primary difference seems to be the percussion, which is lighter, the bass perhaps further forward in the mix. There are also slight variations in the vocal performance and additional synthesizer work. It’s worth comparing to the original version, but presents a slightly lackluster—if esoteric—bonus for the reissue. Regardless, after repeated listens, I am torn in terms of which mix I prefer. There’s a lot to be said for the alternate.

Coleman didn’t appear on Top of the Pops with the rest of the band to perform “Empire Song” on March 25, 1982—Ferguson sang instead—because he’d relocated to Iceland. Many of the band’s members were interested in the occult, including the works of Aleister Crowley, and Coleman was concerned about a coming apocalypse. Coleman moved to Iceland to escape, Walker soon joined him, and Youth left the band. Thus ended the first phase of Killing Joke, a band that still had plenty of life in it. (I remember enjoying 2015’s Pylon with the original lineup well reunited. That record inspired me to further explore the band’s earlier output.) That creative longevity was a bit of a revelation to this listener.

Back from the Dead: Ministry, "Last Tangle in Paris: Live 2012"

“You know, they say it takes a whole pack of wolves to take down a moose because one on one, that moose would smack them down. It's like being in the music business. You’ve got your managers, your ex-managers, your ex-bandmates, your ex-labels, your ex-wives, your lawyers, your tax attorneys. Hell, that sounds more like a pack of hyenas to me. You know, I was once told by an ex-manager, ‘Son, you're worth more dead than alive. Because when you're dead, we can sell you off in pieces.’ That's the way it works around here. You don't believe me? Why don't you try asking Jim Morrison, or Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin, or Kurt Cobain, or Amy Winehouse. I'm pretty sure they're going to take my side of the story. Sometimes I think they're the lucky ones. They don't have to deal with these douchebags because they're already dead.”

Thus opens Ministry’s Last Tangle in Paris: Live 2012 album, as well as the 2012 album Relapse. (The song “Ghouldiggers” also includes a quote from the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues.”) This live album released in 2014 combines two compact discs with a DVD. The two CDs, “Ministry Retro Live,” captures 18 songs recorded between 2006-2012 at various venues. The DVD offers 12 of those songs recorded during the band’s DeFibriLaTour July 28, 2012, at La Cigale in Paris, interspersed with interview and candid footage, memorial content celebrating the life of guitarist Mike Scaccia, and material filmed a month earlier—June 28-29, 2012—when Ministry was playing the Vic in Chicago. (Sweet home Chicago.)

The track list of the two CDs is mostly made up of material from post-2000 albums: one song from 2004’s Houses Of The Molé, five songs off Rio Grande Blood, four songs from The Last Sucker, and three songs from the newest release at the time of the tour, Relapse. Al Jourgensen (Alien F. Jourgensen) and the band—John Bechdel on keyboards, Casey Orr on bass, Sin Quirin on guitar, Aaron Rossi on drums, and Scaccia on guitar—also include a handful of older songs. Those pieces include three songs from 1992’s ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ (also titled Psalm 69) and two songs from 1989’s The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste. Given that I first listened to Ministry in the late-1980s, I was particularly pleased that those songs were included.

The band Jourgensen toured with in 2012—captured on the DVD—was well credentialed. Bechdel previously played with Static-X, Orr performed with Rigor Mortis and Gwar, Quirin spent time with Revolting Cocks, Rossi played with Prong and Revolting Cocks, and Scaccia first met Jourgensen while performing with Rigor Mortis.

That meeting is documented on the DVD in interview footage, with Jourgensen recalling how he first saw Rigor Mortis perform in Chicago in 1987-1988—with either Death Angel or Morbid Angel; tellings vary in different sources. (Death Angel played with Rigor Mortis at the Cubby Bear in Chicago in September 1988, so it was probably at that show. Jourgensen lived just down the street at the time.) That meeting and subsequent friendship led to Scaccia (and later Orr) joining Ministry, as well as Jourgensen’s band turning to a much more guitar-oriented sound.

By the time this live album was released in 2014, Scaccia had died, suffering a heart attack while performing with Rigor Mortis in Texas in late 2012. Jourgensen himself collapsed during a show in Paris during the DeFibriLaTour tour, indicating health and substance abuse concerns. Both events led to Ministry largely disbanding, and this album’s release was accompanied by reports that the band wouldn’t record or tour again. Luckily that wasn’t to be. Ministry has since come back from the dead. Ministry played Hellfest in France earlier this year, and since this album came out, the band has released several live albums on Cleopatra and two studio albums with Nuclear Blast. Those records include 2018’s AmeriKKKant and last year’s Moral Hygiene.

Angelina Lukacin Jourgensen’s liner notes to this album recount Jourgensen’s collapse and subsequent return to rehab and recovery. In 2014, Jourgensen sold his 13th Planet compound in Texas and moved to Los Angeles, where he planned to work on film scores, musical collaborations, film and TV appearances, books, and online activity. As of 2019, Jourgensen still lived in Los Angeles. And he remained sober-ish: “Now I just do mushrooms and pot and a little bit of beer.”

I haven’t watched all of the DVD yet, but I’ve seen all but the last few songs. Approaching this more as a record review, I have listened to the two CDs several times in their entirety. Highlights include the production elements in between songs—Jourgensen should definitely consider more book projects and perhaps the lecture circuit—as well as the songs “Lieslieslies,” “99 Percenters,” “Relapse,” “New World Order (NWO),” and “Khyber Pass,” which reminds me somewhat of Dead Can Dance. The performances contain an explicit stance against the politics of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush—and would have been critical of Donald Trump had he been elected at the time. (AmeriKKKant contains songs along those lines.)

If you haven’t experienced Ministry live, the DVD is a close approximation. And if you enjoy the band’s recordings as reflected during this tour, the live recordings will make intriguing alternate takes to what’s on the studio albums.

I’m just relieved and grateful that Jourgensen is still alive, still politically active, still recording, and still touring. It could have gone another way in 2012, and I am thankful that it didn’t. Here’s to many, many more decades of tangling with the powers that be.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Genre Films on Turner Classic Movies: August 2022

The following science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies, shorts, serials, and cartoons are scheduled for broadcast on Turner Classic Movies in August, according to TCM’s Web site. All times listed are ET. Please check your local listings before tuning in.

August 5—6 a.m.: The Tartars (1961)

August 6—10 a.m.: Green Mansions (1959)

August 7—11:45 a.m.: The Three Musketeers (1948)

August 8—2 a.m.: Brigadoon (1954); 4 a.m.: Invitation to the Dance (1956); 10:45 a.m.: The Devil-Doll (1936); 8 p.m.: Tarzan, the Ape Man (1932); 10 p.m.: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

August 11—1:45 p.m.: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), 8 p.m.: The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

August 14—4 a.m.: The Formula (1980)

August 16—4 p.m.: The Three Musketeers (1973), 8 p.m.: One Million Years B.C. (1966)

August 17—10 a.m.: Edison, the Man (1940)

August 18—2 a.m.: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

August 19—8 a.m.: Throne of Blood (1957)

August 20—4 a.m.: I Live in Fear (1967), 5:30 p.m.: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

August 22—6 p.m.: Topper (1937)

August 23—6 a.m.: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), 10:45 a.m.: Young Tom Edison (1940)

August 27—6 p.m.: Monkey Business (1952)

Daily Headlines for July 30, 2022

States With Abortion Bans Are Among Least Supportive for Mothers and Children
They tend to have the weakest social services and the worst results in several categories of health and well-being.

Study: One in five adults don’t want children — and they’re deciding early in life

In defence of people watching
Summer in the city is made for it – but observing those around us can also make us more empathetic

When Police Fail to Act in a Crisis
Psychology can help explain why law enforcement officers in Uvalde took so long to confront a school shooter

How I came to loathe my car
Driving has been sold to us as freedom. It really isn’t

Splendid isolation? Most people prefer globalisation
Once insular places like Ireland and Singapore understand the benefits of global exchange. Ukrainians yearn for it

‘Agent Josephine’ Review: A Spy in Costume
While on tour, Josephine Baker befriended Axis power elites, then traveled home with war intelligence tucked in her furs.

34 days, 2,400 miles and one cramped boat: How 4 women set a record rowing across the Pacific

Emma Forrest’s fantasy dinner: Jon Ronson and a ‘mean mommy’ porn star
Stoned under the stars in Jamaica, the writer and memoirist can’t bring herself to tell George Michael he’s dead

This Is Not Just Another Bike Race
A women’s edition of the Tour de France triumphantly returns—with fireworks in final mountain stages to come

Friday, July 29, 2022

A Creative Community: Pocket Thoughts Annual #2

Pocket Thoughts Annual #2 (2020)

Kingston, Ontario, Canada-based Ryan Ewing’s Pocket Thoughts Annual is a yearly collaborative zine featuring pages of art, comics, poetry, and writing by other zine makers from around the world. Consider it a minicomics or zine sampler, or an amateur press association approach to making art-oriented zines. It’s a project parallel to his zine Pocket Thoughts, which offers similar content—artwork, comics, photography, poetry, and prose—created by Ewing himself.

This edition, which I received from A.J. Smith in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, one of the contributors, features work from 15 creators around the world. Most sell their zines via Etsy, and those who don’t are active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Checking out their online shops, it looks like creators represent Australia, Canada, and the United States. Not all are still actively selling (in fact, Smith isn’t any longer, which is a shame), but hopefully they continue to make zines.

All of the contributions are minicomic-sized pages, with two half-page submissions. Some combine text and image, and one is text only. Material addresses themes of inappropriate intimacy and relationships, self-medication, COVID-19, mental health, the afterlife, DIY media, the power of art, education and parenting, and the contents of our personal space.

It’s an interesting walk through a community of creative friends and people who probably trade amongst themselves. Some contributions are fun and funny, and some might provoke thought or evoke an emotion. Pocket Thoughts Annual is a great introduction to creators you might not have encountered otherwise—and now you can contact them directly to explore further. It’s also a good gauge of the kind of material Ewing appreciates and enjoys.

This edition is available for about $5 as part of a bundle of issues #1-5 from (look for Pocket Thoughts Annuals).

Easy and Elegant: Thuban Press Guide to Analog Self Publishing

Thuban Press Guide to Analog Self Publishing (2019)

This eight-page, handwritten and hand-drawn primer was created by Floral Park, New York-based minicomics artist Julia Gforer. Offering “step-by-step instructions to make your own book without a computer,” the DIY zine focuses on digest-sized publications, recommended for about 40 pages or fewer. “A book like this is ephemeral in exchange for being accessible,” Gforer writes.

With easy-to-follow instructions and steps, she walks fledgling zine makers through preparing pages on half of an 8.5”-by-11” inch sheet of paper, making sure the page count is divisible by four, preparing a dummy book so each side of an 8.5”-by-11” piece of paper includes pages whose page numbers add up to total n+1, where n is the number of pages total. (For example, a 12-page zine would pair pages 12 and 1, 11 and 2, 10 and 3, and so on. That’s really the trickiest bit, to ensure your pages sequence appropriately when you go to photocopy or print.

The primer reminded me slightly of Ron Rege, Jr.; Dave Choe; Brian Ralph; and Jordan Crane’s more widely ranging Re: A Guide to Reproduction, as well as Jessica Abel’s “DIY: Making Minicomics,” which takes on the more complicated minicomics format (four pages per side vs. two pages). Minicomics maestro Matt Feazell also offered a minicomic about making minicomics at one time.

But this is all you should need to get started, really. Gforer’s approach is easy and elegant, like this how-to zine. As Bread and Puppet Theater said in its 1984 “Why Cheap Art?” manifesto, which is quoted on the back cover, “Art has to be cheap and available to everybody. It needs to be everywhere because it is inside of the world.”

Available for $1 from;

Dancing Ecstatically: Iron Feather Journal #21

Iron Feather Journal #21 (2016)

This 40-page, digest-sized zine with spray-painted stencil covers was published in 2016. That might seem like quite a while ago, and it was, but the editor is currently working on #22—and plans to publish it later this year, in 2022. So this is indeed the most recent issue.

Publishing since 1987, Iron Feather Journal has gone through a number of formats. When I first encountered it, somewhere around issues #13-15, it was an incredibly thick, full-sized magazine format. Corresponding with editor Stevyn Prothero was by turns inspiring and overwhelming. I had so much to learn.

This issue is a little more back to basics, featuring a more diminutive trim size and handmade craftsmanship. I’ve always been impressed by Prothero’s combined love of DIY computer programming and electronics, the esoteric and the occult, and electronic music, bridging the best of hacking and phreaking culture, industrial music, rave culture, and other countercultures of the spirit. Computer scientists as DJs. And everyone’s dancing ecstatically. (This issue was accompanied by a 2016 compact disc by Multicast, Multicaster, which was released by Obliq Recordings. I have yet to listen to the CD, but I know where it is. Perhaps it’ll show up in my random record reviews.)

The zine contains a number of relatively short interviews with artists, musicians, technologists, and writers, including Kate Moussouris, Larry Niven (an extremely terse one-question interview!), Pinguino, and Unii. There are also several brief news reports on the activities of Steve Andrews, Multicast, and R programmer and artist Ben Young.

Among the longer features are Dave Alexander’s article, “Vintage Phonographic Toys,” an interesting survey of dolls, games, trading cards, and other toys incorporating records and record players; the UB World News Report, “Reality Check for Humanity,” which clearly delineates the differences between theism and atheism; a reprint of Anais Nin’s travel writing from a visit to Japan; a poem by Chris Mosdell, “Infernopolis;” and a brief play by Seth Iniguez, “Precoital Disclosure.”

Add to that a simplified language primer, a fascinating semi-fictional timeline, playlists offered by Cozmos Mudwulf and DJ Mayuko, a guide to license plates in Hokkaido, a legal psychedelic recipe, and an excerpt from The Black Art courtesy of John Major Jenkins, and you’ll develop a beginner’s sense of what interests and intrigues the editor.

This issue is available—complete with the CD—for $13 from Multicast’s Bandcamp. Other inquiries can be directed to Stevyn Prothero, 1-6-22 Yamato, Chitose, Hokkaido, 066-0066, Japan;

Potentially Positive Politics: Biohazard, "New World Disorder"

Liberal and progressive politics aren’t necessarily widespread or common in heavy metal music. There are exceptions and many bands involved in the genre have long stood against social injustice generally (perhaps a staple of all outsider cultures), but metal bands exhibiting explicitly liberal politics still represent a minority undercurrent. Similarly, hardcore music is also occasionally conservative in its approach—at least in terms of gender equity and standards of masculinity—though there are also recent exceptions to that rule, as well.

So it was refreshing when the band Biohazard released a politically themed record in 1999. Long associated with the New York Hardcore scene and bands such as Agnostic Front, the Cro-Mags, and Mucky Pup, the band’s early days were marred by reviewers interpreting lyrics on their demo as fascist and white supremacist; the band had to address challenges of racism. (Members Danny Schuler and Evan Seinfeld are Jewish, and Seinfeld—Jerry Seinfeld’s second cousin—has an abdomen tattoo of the Star of David.)

I consider Biohazard primarily a metal band, though there are elements of hardcore present—mostly in the vocal presentation—and rap in the music created by Rob Echeverria (lead guitars), Billy Garziadei (guitars and vocals), Schuler (drums), and Seinfeld (bass and vocals). Def Jam rapper Sticky Fingaz contributes to the title song, the last on the album, reminiscent of Public Enemy’s work with Anthrax. In some ways, Biohazard was a precursor to later nu metal bands even as it avoided clear-cut crossover status (in the Dirty Rotten Imbeciles sense) itself or the purely progressive politics of Rage Against the Machine.

New World Disorder, the band’s sixth album—and third on a major label—reflects a slightly more open-minded approach to personal and community politics than I tend to expect from metal bands. The record continues to address themes raised on earlier albums such as Urban Discipline (which included a Bad Religion cover) and State of the World Address (which Entertainment Weekly indicated as containing “modern-day protest songs”). Regardless, by the end of this album, despite calls for independence and solidarity—standard hardcore themes—I’m left feeling as though the band might perhaps be more interested in conspiracy theories than community development.

Song topics include independence and individuality, opting out of careerism and commercial competition, self-improvement and equality, loneliness and frustration, unity and betrayal, integrity and introspection, change, dishonesty, the democratic process, hurt, war, and the state of the world.

After several assertive songs kicking off the album, the band turns to a slower, softer tune, “End of My Rope,” which features James Hetfield-like Metallica-style singing and some Danzig-esque sensibilities at the end. The song addresses suicidal ideation. “Skin” is an excellent song, a standout, focusing on change and loss. Later in the record, “Cycle of Abuse” also offers more tuneful singing—effectively leavening Biohazard’s drop D shout-along metal. There are a couple of sound art pieces or audio collages at the end of the record, preceding “Dogs of War” and “New World Disorder,” the most explicitly political songs on the record. That last song also features Sticky Fingaz, as well as Christian Olde Wolbers (then of Fear Factory) and Igor Cavalera (then of Sepultura).

In addition to the title track’s international (Belgium and Brazil) and racial inclusion—and lyrics such as “fuck Skull and Bones and Illuminati”—the song also includes someone shouting “behold a pale horse” multiple times in the background. That is likely a reference to the 1991 book by William Milton Cooper, a conspiracy theorist and radio broadcaster who was shot by police during an attempted arrest. Embraced by largely right-leaning militia members as well as anti-government activists, the writings of Cooper can be read as anti-Semitic.

In any event, as a whole, the album is largely positive in its politics regardless of the darkness of its themes and lack of political clarity. After the record was released, the band returned to independent labels, disbanding briefly in 2006. The band would return two years later, only to have Seinfeld leave in 2011.

Along the way, he turned his attention to acting. Seinfeld joined the cast of prison television drama Oz as biker gang leader Jaz Hoyt, first appearing in a second season episode aired by HBO in 1998. He was on the program for five seasons, with Seinfeld’s final episode as a character airing in 2003. Seinfeld also became an adult performer using the name Spyder Jonez appearing in—and directing—pornographic movies in 2004. Adult Film Database reports almost 50 porn releases featuring Seinfeld’s work between 2004 and 2012, mostly with his own studio but also with Burning Angel and Vivid.

Seinfeld married porn actress Tera Patrick in 2004, divorcing in 2011 before marrying former porn actress Lupe Fuentes, to divorce a couple of years ago. With Patrick, he built the adult studio Teravision and its sub-brand Iron Cross Entertainment, which dealt in slightly rougher trade. Additionally, Seinfeld has had a hand in the adult entertainment businesses Peepstar and IsMyGirl (part of Santa Monica-based Cre8 Media with Fuentes), also partnering with Streamate for another Web project. Seinfeld has also launched a community-based coaching service for men called Mantorship.

While I applaud Seinfeld’s individualism and wide-ranging career—he's definitely making his own way—his work in porn doesn’t help clarify the politics of Biohazard. Maybe the politics weren’t the point.

Song of the Day: Elvis Presley, "Trouble"


Daily Headlines for July 29, 2022

These Rape Victims Had to Sue to Get the Police to Investigate
As more women come forward to report sexual assault, some say law enforcement has failed them. ‘There was no collection of evidence,’ one victim said. ‘Except off my body.’

The Hunt Is On for ‘War Trophies’ in Ukraine
Collectors across the country are seeking pieces of shrapnel, bits of bombs and even the uniforms of dead Russians. It’s part of an urge to feel more directly connected to the cause.

4,000 Mistreated Beagles Need Homes. These Folks Are Stepping Up.
The dogs were headed for testing labs and didn’t even have names or know how to play. Volunteers are introducing them to grassy yards and cuddly movie nights for the first time.

Woman who says she’s Charles Manson’s sister withdraws from dispute over his estate

How Los Angeles Times Handled Exposé Becomes the Talk of the Town
A book by a reporter from the newspaper has ignited debate about the way editors dealt with an explosive article he helped write in 2017.

Sheila Rayam Is Named Executive Editor of The Buffalo News
Ms. Rayam, 55, the first Black journalist to lead the paper, will take over as its community still reels from one of the deadliest racist massacres in recent American history.

Newsmax renews deal to be carried by Verizon’s Fios, days before rival OAN is to be dropped.
Both Newsmax and OAN are known for their loyalty to Donald Trump, and for serving as platforms for his debunked claims of rampant voter fraud in 2020.

Shut Down by the Kremlin, Independent Russian Media Regroup Abroad
News outlets forced to close since Russia invaded Ukraine are soldiering on in exile

Tim Giago, Native American Newspaperman, Is Dead at 88
The founder of the first independent American Indian newspaper braved gunshots and firebombs to provide an unvarnished look at life on the reservation.

Comcast Fails to Gain Broadband Subscribers for First Time
Cable company posted higher revenue in second quarter, boosted by movie-studio and theme-park businesses

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Rapid-Fire Presentation: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, "Living with the Living"

One of my friends, Brad, is—or was—super into Ted Leo. I might have even gone to a Ted Leo show with Brad while I still lived in Boston. Email records also suggest that my wife and I might have caught a Ted Leo show at the South Street Seaport in New York City in the mid-2000s—when he was still on Lookout Records—but recollection falters. In any event, Ted Leo is someone whose music I like, whom I appreciate—but whom I wish hit me harder or landed more solidly somehow. With his energetic, persistent, and prolific approach to modern-day political anthems along the lines of Billy Bragg, the Clash, and Stiff Little Fingers channeled through a bit of Elvis Costello or perhaps Nick Lowe, I would like to appreciate Leo more.

So I keep buying Ted Leo records. I don’t necessarily seek his music out on an ongoing basis, but there was a time when if there was new music to be had, I picked it up. This compact disc was bought in that spirit 15 years ago—not as an obligation, mind you, but as another step toward a further understanding of, a deeper appreciation for, and a stronger embrace of Leo’s approach to songwriting.

Reconsidering this record, Leo’s first on Touch and Go after a short stint on Lookout—and his fifth album with the Pharmacists overall—I can appreciate it differently, perhaps better than I could when it first came out. Interestingly, neither it nor the accompanying five-song Mo' Living EP (which includes a Chumbawamba cover!), plays on my portable CD player, so I’ve not been able to listen to it with headphones. Slight and meaningless irritation aside, there’s a lot of good to listen to with room sound, and the record might be better suited to more energetic (even ambient) than attentive listening.

The fourth track, “Who Do You Love?,” is a wonderful example of power pop. “Colleen,” a slight diversion from the previous songs, offers borderline psych pop before reverting to Costello-style bash pop—overall, an excellent song. Immediately following, “A Bottle of Buckie” brings a little more of a heartland, country feel, though it’s still relatively fast paced. Listening to this song, I can hear a little bit of regional rock influence such as that of Bruce Springsteen or the Gaslight Anthem peek through. The song’s instrumentation is marked by brief moments of tin whistle and mandolin or another stringed instrument. “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.,” the most explicitly political song on the album so far, is more hardcore in its orientation, reminding me briefly of the Minutemen before its Make-Up-like chorus. The moments of Washington, D.C.-like hardcore and angular guitar are aided by Brendan Canty, who partly engineered and mixed the record.

I particularly enjoyed the one-two punch medley of “Annunciation Day,” with its rapid-fire presentation, and the strident yearning of “Born on Christmas Day.” Following the slightly quieter reggae track “The Unwanted Things,” Leo returns with the near U2-inspired white soul modulating song “The Lost Brigade.” The album ends with several higher-energy numbers interrupted by the slow-paced, soulful “The Toro and the Toreador,” finally bringing the record home with force. “The World Stops Turning” is particularly excellent.

Topics addressed on the album include loss, trust, strength and self-sufficiency, thoughts of home, military aggression, hope and faith, empathy, community and discord, self-doubt, sorrow, and certainty.

By the end of the record, I realized that Leo is a large-hearted master of multi-genre assemblage. (The sound collage that opens the record makes strong sense in that context.) He appreciates and endorses punk and hardcore, regional roots rock, reggae, white soul, power pop, and other genres—combining them into his own approach to independent rock. That can result in a songwriting—and album sequencing—challenge. How do you combine all the music you love in the music you make? How do you offer the breadth and depth of the music you feel inside without disorienting or distracting the listener? Can you capture the ideas and ideals of all the songs inside of you in every single song? “Every little memory has a song,” Leo sings. After all, this isn’t a Mr. Bungle or Naked City record, where genre-hopping is kind of the point.

But it is a Ted Leo record. Almost Ted Leo radio. And that makes it worth listening to on its own terms and as it is. Leo is an impressive and important creative voice regardless of how each song or album lands.