Monday, December 21, 2009

Pedro the Lion - Control

It always baffles me to find out that a band or song writer I love is religious. It's not that I'm in awe that the same genius I recognize in them could believe in something I can no longer bring myself to humor, but more that such opposing views on what seems like such a basic and important question could find a complete reconciliation in my appreciation of their art.

Perhaps it's David Bazan's belief in the other side which keeps him afloat when uttering the simply soul crushing truths he's capable of in Control. Perhaps it's a religious beleif which draws him to such dire topics, or perhaps its the topics that drive him to religion. In any case there are no easy answers, no religious platitudes, no "good news", just people being all to human in an all too modern world.

The plight of man in the age of information and technology is a pet theme for Bazan. Is technology going to make us better people, a better country, will it even make us happier? With Control, Bazan expounds upon the themes of its predecesor EP Progress. Borrowing it's icy April 6, 2039 and renaming it Progress, he reworks it with an auto-tuned voice transmitted from the future selling furniture or perhaps just a prideful consumer showing off. It's hard to tell. The track drives the point home with "if you're lucky they'll turn out as good as you/you tell them that they're good kids but you know it isnt true/your father drank a little, you're on liver number two",drawing to mind that old quote which goes something like "I have no problem with technologies getting better and smarter, my only fear is that we will meet them half way". To make the point even clearer, the EP puts the barcode front and center of a steel grey cover.

In the bleak world of Control live a married couple who deal with the disillusion of their marriage in destructive and "Unoriginal" ways. Going from feigned "I love you's" at its start and ending with a EMT's feigned "buddy just calm down, you'll be just fine". An epilogue offers no answers, but won't admit meaninglessness, instead offering in a sober tone "wouldn't it be so wonderful/if everything was meaningless/but everything is so meaningful/and most everything turns to shit.", then in his characteristic irony sings "Rejoice" over a bed of angelic guitars.

Bazan has ever been a master of the cautionary tale, Control following in the narrative footsteps of the previous Winners Never Quit, another story of flawed individuals trying to deal with situations far over thier emotionaly immature heads. And, like many-a-band who try their hand at the concept album, came up with something more engaging the second time around.

Another important album from more overt Christians is mewithoutYou's Catch for Us the Foxes. These believers take an entirely different approach from Bazan, but still come up with something beautiful and meaningful. The music is vibrant and emotional owing much to 90s bands the likes of Fugazi and Sunny Day Real Estate. But, the lyrics are are what truly stand out. Feeling more orated than sung, they move along in a way that combines the immediacy of evangelism with the awe and wonder of transcendenatalist poetry.

If this sounds a bit paradoxical, it works all the better for thier themes which focus mainly on a sort of man vs himself struggle to keep the faith, recognize the truth, and maintain innocence. Aaron Weiss the bands vocalist carries the sort of neurotic energy of a Dostoyevski anti-hero, epitomising with his all to forward approach the unreliable narrator. But, if you can take his faith and joy at face value, then you will open yourself to some the best poetry and freshest imagery of the past decade.

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