Pedro the Lion [I]Control[/I] Review

In the midst of everything wrong with the capitalist and commodity driven music industry, an artist and an album emerges that is so genuine it reminds us that music can be the answer and not the enemy. Pedro the Lion can be seen as a band, but in reality it is the representation of one man’s musical journey, David Bazan.

Originally inspired by hardcore and heavy music, Bazan has taken another approach with Pedro the Lion that explores beauty and melody broached with a sweet voice and meaningful lyrics. The band’s latest release, Control is the most diverse album thus far.

Not only is the album heavy, meaning dirty and raw, it is also notably provocative in the lyrical sense. Bazan’s sensitive style has always been associated with previous Pedro the Lion releases. However, the combination of dark music and dark lyrics puts Control in a league of its own.

"I think that I’ve been getting into, well – since Hard to Find a Friend I definitely have been listening to a lot more classic rock. I guess like AC/DC and Zeppelin and things that I didn’t necessarily listen to so much before. But I’ve always listened to hard music or whatever, but just never that era of hard music."

Not only had Bazan’s musical tastes influenced the sound of Control he admits that there were several elements that contributed to the making of this record.

"There’s a bunch of different factors that made this record quite a bit darker than any other Pedro record and some of that is because I’m hoping to write a record with some resolution this next time around. I wanted there to be enough tension so that the release actually kind of meant something this next time around and so that had something to do with it as well."

Bazan admits that he has always wanted to write heavy music but whenever he attempted to make things more dark the timing was never right. "I’ve always wanted to write heavy music to a certain degree but whenever I would try to it was always really forced and kind of contrived. This time when the songs came out – that’s just kind of how they did. Also, we’d been playing the songs quite a bit more live before we finished them and recorded them. So it gave us a chance – or it gave me a chance to really find out what sort of moved about the songs or had formed momentum. And I think I’ve been wanting to make a rock ‘n roll record and that’s what happened."

Anyone who has followed Pedro the Lion’s journey is well aware that what sets Bazan apart from everyone else is how movingly real his lyrics are. Bazan is a master at creating the most melancholy lyrics that penetrate even the coldest heart. Without confusing his style for the sappiness of the redundant "upset over the girl who got away" lyrics that lack genuine sincerity and have become a dime a dozen, Bazan takes realistic situations that are identifiable on a much more mature level.

"It has a lot to do with – well, that’s not my temperament I guess … but just there’s been something about getting to the bottom of something or knowing. Kind of like scraping away the – uhm, what do you call it … whatever the sugar coating is? That has always appealed to me ever since I remember from being a little kid."

Bazan continues to admit, "There’s something comforting to me about speaking about something in what a person would consider in terms of the honest truth about something. And I guess the more that I find out about the world or the more that I think I find out about the world, the more that I feel that those honest truths are pretty dark and dirty. Like the way that the history of the world is being one of take-over, rape and murder. And yet there obviously are some really moving, positive things that take place largely in the art world, but past that it’s not a real pretty thing."

When asked if Bazan considers himself a person drawn to music that has a tendency to appear sad or somewhat disheartening he agrees.
"The expressions that really resonate with me in films or in books are sort of that [sad]. You know, there’s always this kind of fabric – which these, our lives, are made up from a bunch of different elements. But it’s those things that are sad that seem like they are the most honest or they resonate the most with maybe my sense of reality. Also, they’re endearing I think. Because when people are honest about their weaknesses it makes it a lot easier to interact with them. If you can be honest about your weaknesses and not have to feel like you’re hiding so much, then that is what’s comforting about it to me."

However, much of Bazan’s new listeners are into music that is not readily identifiable to a 20+ audience. They are listening to music that has a lot to do with the latest movement to hit music. Bazan seems shyer about his relatively small success. Much to the dismay of himself and many of his mature fans, he too has become a victim of the music industries latest commodity. But he is quick to refute his newly crowned "emo" status.

"I don’t care for it. I think maybe more stylistically the movement of it is not something I really identify with as far as my listening tastes are. I mean there’s some music that I listen to that would be considered ‘emo’ or like ‘first wave’. There was a period that when Sunny Day Real Estate came out I thought, ‘man, this is really cool’ and pretty quickly I thought that I respect that at a certain level, but there is elements that I don’t totally love. And for whatever reason people see that in Pedro’s music."

Albeit he does not like being labeled ‘emo’, he argues why he has found himself within its appeal.
"The thing that I most dislike about that kind of music is that there is a certain sappiness to it. When anything becomes a movement like that it is sort of distasteful to me. I don’t know why? But it is definitely something that people are capitalizing on for sure, and I think that where Pedro the Lion gets lumped into all that stuff, and I can see why, is because there is a sappiness to Pedro the Lion’s music that sometimes bums me out … a sentimentality or something that I’m kind of ashamed of and yet also into."

With every successful musical style, a formula is created that allows for other bands to mimic and reproduce. Bazan admits that although he is in a league ruled by Dashboard Confessional, "that kid rose to kinghood really quick" he does not see his music in anyway following Dashboard’s heartbroken equation.

"It’s hard because some guys really get stuck on that [heartache] and can do really great work, but it should be also maybe moving on. That’s probably why I try to write fiction because I feel like if I didn’t that maybe it would be the same thing over and over again."

Fiction or not, Pedro the Lion is definitely one artist that is very real. And if there has ever been a better time to listen to music that makes the world seem like it really is, Control is a great idea.

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