Score (out of 10): [9.1]
When Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan decided to drop the moniker and go solo, it came as a disappointment to many. After all, Pedro the Lion had released a ton of incredible albums, including 2002’s Control, containing some of the best lyrical work of any singer/songwriter of the past 10 years. With Bazan’s side project Headphones, nobody expected him to release material this early after going solo. Bazan by himself seemed strange to me. How could he exist without bandmate and longtime friend T.W. Walsh? Bazan proved to not only me, but the rest of the world, that a name is just a name. This release contains some of Bazan’s strongest and most controversial work to date, especially lyrically. Taking pages from each of his project’s books, Bazan combines his trademark somber, smooth vocals from Pedro the Lion with some electronic effects from Headphones (especially in “Cold Beer and Cigarettes”) to create the most expansive work of his career. Though the album is only 5 songs, there are 2 versions of each song. The first 5 tracks feature a full backing band, while the last 5 are stripped down, acoustic and raw versions of each song.
Lyrics have always been Bazan’s strong point. Historically, they’ve been surprisingly simple yet full of relatable imagery, nothing has changed on this record. The upbeat and uncharacteristically cheery number “That’s How I Remember” speaks of Bazan’s personal requirements of having a few drinks before he goes out in public, suggesting previous social inadequacy. Bazan never steers away from disclosing uncomfortable realities of his personal life in his songs, and that only becomes more evident on “Fewer Broken Pieces.” Here, Bazan laments on his decision to go solo, confessing that “Don’t think I don’t regret it/because I do and I don’t think I’m better off alone/Man I could have had a big sound/But I love to let my friends down.” This view into Bazan’s personal life allows the listener to connect with him on a level that most artists don’t achieve with their listeners. Lines like “One good friend remarks with a rightfully angry/Jesus, dude?°¦none of us know what to do with you” make you feel for Bazan in his lament.
In addition to his personal confessions, Bazan has not shied away from controversial topics, as “Backwards Nation” speaks of men picking up machine guns to kill “camel fuckers.” Of course, these lyrics, when placed into context, are social commentaries instead of racial slurs. Still, Bazan’s addressing of rednecks and frat boys are biting and unsettling, as one can feel his anguish through his words.
As far as the music itself goes, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear Bazan use such widely varied instrumentation in his EP, but still offer up stripped down singer/songwriter versions of the songs (like some older Pedro the Lion fans may be used to). Bazan is lyrically driven, yet still makes his music hauntingly infectious by paralleling guitar lines and tempo amazingly with his vocal delivery. Fewer Moving Parts will please Pedro the Lion fans from all eras. Anybody who appreciates artists that bare their soul should give this EP a listen, as Bazan is a songwriter who is simply unmatched in his ability to invoke emotion in a listener while the listener actually cares for Bazan’s own well-being. While often depressing and despondent, Bazan takes his listeners on a 5 song lyrical journey for what will almost undoubtedly end up as the EP of the year. While not as strong as several Pedro the Lion releases, David Bazan’s solo debut is still fantastic and is a wonderful teaser for his upcoming full-length.