Ted Leo & The Pharmacists: Dirty Old Town
Plexifilm // Unrated // $24.95 // February 24, 2004
Review by Randy Miller III | posted March 28, 2004
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Graphical Version
The Movie

Dirty Old Town is a film about musical group Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, an energetic and creative rock group from the East Coast. Prior to forming The Pharmacists in 1999, frontman Ted Leo was part of several other music groups, including Chisel. Led by a seasoned veteran of songwriting and live performances, it was no surprise that this new group hit the ground running, having released four albums in just five years. With an aggressive sound similar to Elvis Costello and even The Clash, Ted Leo and his group have a great presence that lends itself well to live performance. The music is catchy, but gets even better on repeated listens...a very good indication of quality songwriting and talent. Although I must confess I'm relatively new to their music, it's good enough that I'll definitely keep an eye on these guys.

Essentially, Dirty Old Town is a document of the group's performance at the recent Siren Music Festival in Coney Island, NY. With a brisk running time of just over an hour, we're treated to a nice cross-section of the band's catalogue, including selections from their recent albums The Tyranny of Distance and Hearts of Oak. Of course, in typical documentary fashion, we get to see the band behind the scenes, and it's a great look at a promising young group of performers.

The Setlist:

Dirty Old Town
2nd Avenue, 11 A.M.
Timorous Me
Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?
The Ballad of the Sin Eater
The High Party
The Crane Takes Flight
Parallel or Together

Although I'd have liked to see a more complete section of work and more footage in general, there's a good amount of stuff here for such a young band. This DVD comes to us from Plexifilm, and features a great technical presentation combined with a few interesting extras that fans of the band---new and old---will really enjoy. All in all, Dirty Old Town is a solid DVD release for a band that seems to have their best years ahead of them. Let's see how this one stacks up, shall we?

Quality Control Department

Video Presentation:

Despite its name, Dirty Old Town looks very good as far as low-budget documentaries go. Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, the majority of the footage here is clean and bright, with bold colors and nice contrast. Some of the crowd shots and other scenes look a little washed out with slightly bleached colors, but this appears to be the intended look for the hot, humid atmosphere. Overall, this is a good-looking DVD that provides more than enough visual bang for a concert performance.

Audio Presentation:

The audio seems to be presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, and it's a perfectly serviceable presentation. It won't blow you away, and it isn't as loud and immersive as a concert experience usually is, but the music really shines through. Surrounds were used mostly for crowd ambience, but the music itself crept in on occasion. Overall, this is a satisfying mix that shouldn't disappoint any fans of the band.

Menu Design & Packaging:

Menus for this compilation were pretty basic, but were nicely designed and executed. The packaging was also attractive, and was put together in a clear keepcase with a few pictuesque images and crowd photos. An insert was also included, which rounded out a very nice packaging job. Overall, this was a really sharp looking release.

Bonus Features:

Although the bonus features are a little slim, they're worth checking out. The majority of these extras are a few bonus performances and outtakes from live shows, including an interesting excerpt from a show played during the NYC Blackout of 2003. Also inluded is a slide show of photos and other images from the bands' performance at Coney Island, as well as a Trailer for the film (apprently, it had a very limited theatrical run). While I'd have liked to see more participation from the band (possibly an audio commentary or interview footage), this is a decent mix of extras that compliment the show well.

Final Thoughts

For any fan of Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, this is an interesting look at the band in action, and a solid DVD to boot. Even if you've never heard their music before, this is a release worth checking out, if only as a rental. However, the overall performance and DVD production is good enough to make Dirty Old Town a Recommended purchase in my book. Overall, any fan of quality music should try and seek this disc out...it just might surprise you.

Other Links of Interest

The Official Website of Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

Randy Miller III is a part-time cartooning instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.

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