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Plexifilm presents
Ted Leo/PharmacistsóDirty Old Town (2004)

"This is our last song. I'm going to try to sing on key."
- Ted Leo

Review By: Brian Calhoun   
Published: March 10, 2004

Stars: Ted Leo
Other Stars: Dave Lerner, Chris Wilson, Dorien Garry, Drew O'Doherty, Ida Pearle, Jon Benjamin, David Cross, Vin O'Donnell
Director: Justin Mitchell

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:02m:59s
Release Date: February 24, 2004
UPC: 082354001629
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C+ CBB- B-

DVD Review

At one point during his performance, singer/guitarist Ted Leo mentions that anyone who knows him understands that he actually wants to be a comedian. Whether or not he is joking, it might not be a bad career move for him, since his music is not terribly appealing. It is not that he is a bad musician, quite the contrary actually, but his dirty, grating, treble-laden style of punk rock is quite difficult to listen to for any extended period of time.

In 2003, director Justin Mitchell shot a film called Dirty Old Town, which consisted of Leo and his band The Pharmacists performing at an outdoor concert on Coney Island. Mitchell has a keen eye for the performance and edits his footage well, integrating a tasteful blend of stage shots and audience reactions. His talent with a camera gives the home viewer a good idea of what it was like to be in attendance at this show. Included with the concert footage are interview clips with Ted Leo, where he discusses his approach to the songwriting process as well as the hardships of life on the road. Leo's pleasant demeanor and intelligence make these interview segments enjoyable, yet I wish these moments had been shown either before or after the concert, rather than interspersed between songs.

As for the performance, it can best be described as raw. Leo performs a brash style of classic punk rock, his sound proving quite similar to that of his main influences, The Clash and Joy Division. Leo's showmanship demonstrates many of the elements of a punk show, as he wildly strums his guitar while belting out unintelligible lyrics. Unfortunately, the abundance of feedback and intonation problems proves fatiguing all too quickly. I suppose this sonic dissonance is part of what punk is all about, yet I did not care for Leo's simple and monotonous style. Nevertheless, I believe fans of the genre will thoroughly enjoy his music, which actually stays true to the roots of punk, unlike the horrendous "bubblegum punk" that seems to dominate the radio airwaves these days.

Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 widescreen image is an admirable presentation, even without the extra resolution that anamorphic enhancement provides. The concert appears to have been shot on 16mm, and its grainy film-like aesthetic is abundant throughout. With the exception of minor shimmering, the picture is clear and free from distracting video noise.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack suits the material well. Minor hissing can be heard during quiet moments, thought it is not terribly distracting. Overall, the sound is somewhat muddy, and if I did not concentrate hard enough, the music had a tendency to sound like white noise. Nevertheless, the melodies are evident, and the 2.0 soundtrack does justice to the over-the-top nature of this performance.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Coney Island Slide Show
Extras Review: The first entry in this small collection of special features is footage from a New York show that Leo performed during the August blackout of 2003. In a city without power, Leo and his band insisted that the show must go on, as they continued to perform using power from a backup generator.

Next, is a brief slide show of images taken from the Coney Island performance.

The most substantial feature is the footage from Leo's solo performance at Pianos in New York City. Unfortunately, hearing Leo perform songs from his repertoire without the accompaniment of his band becomes tiresome all too quickly.

Rounding out the special features is a brief trailer for the main feature.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

While Ted Leo's aggressive style of punk rock may only appeal to a limited fan base, his talent is evident and captured admirably through the concert footage in Dirty Old Town.


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