Shake the Sheets is more of the same from Ted Leo. Tough, wiry, and smart, bristling with anger, hope, and fervor, the record is another much-needed dose of thinking-person's punk. Sort of an antidote to pouty, made-to-order girl punk and pretty-boy, mall-rat pop-punk, sort of a giant FU to anyone who acts like punk is a set of rules one has to follow in order to be authentic, Leo and his band craft their punk out of attitude, commitment, and dynamic tension. This record is more affected by the tenor of the times than past releases (detainees, bad presidents, broken systems, war, and rifles are among the topics covered) and Leo has stripped away some of the more convoluted language he loves to use in order to deliver a more direct message. The sound of the record is more stripped down as well. Using only guitars and drums, the Pharmacists whip up a powerful mix of wild abandon and subtlety that is a perfect backing for Leo's vocal dexterity and clanging guitar heroics. Throat problems and subsequent surgery haven't affected Leo's amazingly acrobatic yet heartfelt vocals too much. He may not vault into the high range quite as much, but that is also due to the simpler, more direct nature of the songwriting too. At a time when many writers find their talent beginning to desert them (that tricky third album!), Leo has come up with songs that are as good as any he has written. "Me and Mia," "The Angels' Share," "Little Dawn," "Shake the Sheets," and "Walking to Do" are all going to be on his greatest-hits collection and the rest of the record is no letdown either. Fiercely political without being to specific, filled with moments that will have you jumping out of your seat with excitement, Shake the Sheets is more proof that Ted Leo & the Pharmacists are the only band that matters, punk or otherwise.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra