The Pharmacists’ Ted Leo lacks energy in solo affair

Ostensibly a single for one of the songs off of the Pharmacist’s punk masterpiece from last year, “Hearts of Oak,” this EP clocks in at right around 30 minutes and ten tracks. While that is more than most bands can devote to a proper album, the voluminous running time of this companion EP comes as little surprise to those of us fortunate enough to be familiar with front man Ted Leo’s hard-working charm.

The first track is, predictably enough, the album version of “Tell Balgeary Balgury Is Dead,” a worthy single selection by any reasonable standard, but a little perplexing given the bevy of superior single-ready numbers on “Hearts of Oak.” Nonetheless, its upbeat catchiness kicks the EP off to a good start.

For the remainder of the disc, it’s really a Ted Leo solo affair, an appealing prospect given the acclaim his solo performances have garnered over the years. However, a lot of the energy of his performance doesn’t come through in the “live in the studio” takes that compose the latter tracks.

The sole live performance is markedly more thrilling. It incorporates a disturbingly nimble solo electric guitar reading of “The High Party” from “Hearts of Oak.” Leo flawlessly burns through the spidery guitar riffs of the album version at breakneck speed, and beats out the chords of the verses with such energy that the lack of a backing band is hardly a problem.

The rest of the solo recordings sound more like extremely good demos for the next Pharmacists album. They are great songs, but unlike live version of “The High Party,” the minimal arrangement doesn’t really add that much.