For a sneak preview of Ted Leo's next album, the Grog Shop is the place to be Tuesday. Leo and his band are embarking on a spring tour to road-test his latest material, some of which will probably turn up on his fifth full-length release this fall. The follow-up to 2004's enthusiastically received Shake the Sheets will also be Leo's first for revered independent label Touch & Go; Leo recently signed with the Chicago imprint after a successful run on another well-known indie, California's Lookout! Records.
The punk-inspired, politically minded, and pop-friendly Leo first attracted widespread attention as leader of the Washington, D.C. underground band Chisel in the early '90s. When Chisel split in 1997, Leo found his way to a solo career, refining the mod and soul influences in his repertoire. Leo and the Pharmacists' first album for Lookout!, 2001's The Tyranny of Distance, won critical raves, as did the 2003 follow-up Hearts of Oak, while the EP Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead featured Leo and his electric guitar, making comparisons to left-wing troubadour Billy Bragg inevitable -- and appropriate.