Ted Leo’s fiery rock songs felt extra-meaningful in the ’00s, when activist anthems stood in stark contrast to the “shut up and salute” attitude sweeping the nation. But now everyone seems to be a dissenter, and with the public mood swinging wildly from optimism to despair to outright panic, the 39-year-old Leo is still out there, consoling and cajoling. Ted Leo And The Pharmacists’ Matador debut The Brutalist Bricks only occasionally recalls the polished, punchy rock of 2007’s superior Living With The Living; more often, the record sounds uneven by design, recklessly mixing in elements of thrash, dub, and lo-fi folk the way Leo did a decade ago. This approach will likely be read by some as a regression—and a clumsy one to boot—but The Brutalist Bricks is just as much a stirring, personal response to the times as the early Pharmacists albums. There’s a back-to-basics, making-sense-of-the-world vibe about the record, and Leo’s blend of the personal and political is often touching, as on the meaty “Even Heroes Have To Die,” the poppy “Bottled In Cork,” and the soaring “Ativan Eyes.” If Leo has a thesis statement, he offers it right up front in “The Mighty Sparrow,” when he yelps, “When the cafe doors exploded, I reacted to you.” It’s hard to imagine a saner response to our creeping insanity.