Contact Us

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ ‘Hearts of Oak’ – A Look Back on a New Punk Classic

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Hearts of Oak
Lookout! Records

Ted Leo had been making records with one band or another since 1991. But it wasn’t until 2003 that ‘Hearts of Oak’ transformed him from super-obscure punk-rock dude to critically acclaimed indie rocker with a wide range of influences.

‘Hearts of Oak’ was Leo’s third album with the Pharmacists, the rotating band the Washington, D.C.-based singer-songwriter formed in 1999. On their second album, ‘The Tyranny of Distance,’ Leo began incorporating a bunch of different styles of music into his punk-inflected indie rock, including folk, pop, New Wave, Celtic and reggae. By the time he got around to recording ‘Hearts of Oak,’ he had the songs, too.

From the minute-and-a-half opening blast of ‘Building Skyscrapers in the Basement’ to the closing, near-epic ‘The Crane Takes Flight,’ ‘Hearts of Oak’ sounds like the work of a hungry new artist, not the 10th record by someone who had been plugging away at them for a dozen years. The highlight is ‘Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?’ a tribute to 2 Tone ska groups, particularly the great Specials, whose members and song titles are name-checked throughout Leo’s tune.

It’s an exhilarating moment on the album and one of the great singles of the ‘00s. It even managed to pick up some airplay on college radio stations working outside of the usual playlists. That momentum carries through the rest of ‘Hearts of Oak,’ which didn’t crack the Top 200 and sold about as well as to be expected for an indie LP by a relative unknown artist. But it opened up Leo’s career. Ten years later, he’s still with the Pharmacists and making hook-stuffed records based on ‘Hearts of Oak’’s genre-jumping template.

Watch Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ ‘Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?’ Video

Next: 10 Best Ted Leo Songs

Best of the Web

Festival Fever News

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your points and personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account with your Facebook account, just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing profile and VIP program points. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://diffuser.fm using your Facebook account.

*Please note that your points, prizes and activities will not be shared between programs within our VIP network.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

Register on Diffuser.fm quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!

Not a Member? Sign Up Here.

Sign up for an account to comment, share your thoughts, and earn points to get great prizes.

Register on Diffuser.fm quickly by logging in with your Facebook account. It's just as secure, and no password to remember!