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June 4, 2004

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LION ROARS GENTLY ON LUMINOUS `ACHILLES HEEL'

PEDRO THE LION: PEDRO THE LION'S ACHILLES HEEL (JADE TREE) B+

It could be sour grapes when David Bazan sings about ``Bands With Managers'' (``Bands with messy hair and smooth white faces'') on the opening track of Pedro the Lion's latest album. After all, Bazan's primarily one-man band (TW Walsh currently is the other full-time member) is a darling of the indie underworld but is relatively unknown outside that locale.

But the rest of ``Achilles Heel'' suggests Bazan has a lot more on his mind than who's turning up on ``TRL.'' ``Achilles Heel'' may not make Pedro the Lion a household name - that's hardly its point. But the disc establishes Bazan as a premier songwriter. It also will remind listeners that some ``alternative'' bands once provided an actual alternative to the status quo.

Bazan has the gift of making the mundane meaningful. When he envisions Western states as quarreling lovers in ``Arizona,'' it's both strange and funny. By the time he explains rock-paper-scissors at song's end, he sounds like he's giving you the secret of life.

The Lion's music may have some of the lazy qualities of Pavement's - seemingly offhand musical comments coalescing into a powerful whole. But Bazan's humanity far outstrips that of the notoriously chilly Pavement; try to imagine Stephen Malkmus encouraging a depressed friend to ``Keep Swinging'' after a drunken evening ends in tears and soiled pants.

Bazan casts his tales in luminous melodies with understated backing. You'll be singing along before you even notice the lyrics concern self-amputation and arguments about the Almighty.

PUBLICATION
The Tampa Tribune

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