David Bazan, alias Pedro the Lion, was raised in a strict Christian household, and you will see kids wearing "WWJD?" bracelets at his concerts. But Bazan is no Bible- thumper. He’s gained a reputation for irritating hard-core Christians by questioning matters of faith, and he ranks Fugazi alongside the church choir as an early musical influence.
Don’t let the prospect of scripture and philosophy scare you; the word "God" never comes up on "Achilles Heel," and the songs unfold like bestselling novels. Unlike his previous two albums, each song on this one, Bazan’s fifth, has its own unique protagonist struggling in vain to measure up when expectations are reduced to thin stereotypes. On "I Do," a male voice buckles under the weight of patriarchy and sings: "It’s time to bury dreams/and raise a son/to live vicariously through." Bazan’s mellow, slightly scruffy voice leads through the tune so the bridge is over and the chorus begun before you even realize it.
Longtime collaborator T.W. Walsh and James McAlister of Ester Drang offer bright supplements to Bazan’s melancholia, feeding us the staples of the indie-rock diet stirred to perfection: bouncy staccato guitar lines, steady drumbeats augmented with egg shakers or tambourines, and synthesizers imitating made-up instruments. Pedro the Lion is music for fans of Elliott Smith and Evan Dando, but smarter and deeper.