Ted Leo’s current project is a “pay-what-you-can” monthly release on Bandcamp and he is open to suggestions, and financial inducement it seems. After a fan offered $5 for him to record a Big Country song, he tackled “Inwards.”
The original is taken from Big Country’s classic album “The Crossing”, released 40 years ago. Restless Scottish native Stuart Adamson formed a punk band, The Skids, led by a distinctly New Wave singer, Richard Jobson. When New Wave then became dominant in the early ’80s he constructed a guitar band, Big Country, and for a time they seemed to be holding a fragile line against synthesizer-led pop. Their live shows were legendary celebrations of the enduring value of classic guitar lineups. Behind the scenes, of course, Adamson was using electronic tools to give his guitar band the sound he wanted, pioneering the technique of “bagpiping” to give two guitars the sound of a skirl.
Leo and his Pharmacists strip away the bagpiping guitars and lilted vocals. What is left is precision, sometimes detailed and sometimes soaring. It reminds us that the themes of the song are universal and important. Leo says his version is a tribute to his contrarian friend Jack Terricloth of World/Inferno Friendship Society. Ted Leo and his fans see parallels between guitarists, from different sides of the Atlantic and different genres, with charismatic stage presence and astounding chops.