Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

David Bazan preview

| October 21, 2009

Lincoln Hall, Chicago
Saturday, October 24, 2009


For years, David Bazan was the bane of Christian rock. Not because of pointed, Christopher Hitchens-styled atheistic attacks or a hyper-commercialized bastardization of their idiom. Bazan, as Pedro The Lion, was the rare God rocker with credibility outside the genre and, to outsiders, the only “good one.”

What made his songs so engaging to indie rockers was Bazan didn’t sing so much about the Almighty as his struggle with it. He took advantage of his novelty by interrupting shows for Q&A sessions with audiences (at his peak he headlined Park West) while framing his own problems in brother’s keeper tales, marriage travails (going so far as to fantasize about the righteousness of murdering his spouse), and materialism run amok. But, almost in lockstep with rock cliché, the more popular he got the more he slipped. His songwriting grew formulaic and loud, trawling more conventional emotions while tossing off tracks like “Keep Swinging,” about drinking too much cold medicine. The naked emperor, feeling aggrieved by a low numerical rating on Pitchfork, retaliated in song. He began drinking heavily and was banned from the downstate Cornerstone Christian music festival — a staple of his tour schedule — for being drunk.

Curse Your Branches (Barsuk) tries to put all of this in perspective and coincides with his big break from Jesus. He quotes the Bible (“Bless This Mess”), demythologizes himself (“Lost My Shape”), and gets allegorical with alcohol (“In Stitches”). As it’s his confessional, Bazan can be forgiven for some of his more pedestrian melodies, but in many ways the album would have been more effective, more clever had he gone back and framed his decision in the lo-fi fragility of It’s Hard To Find A Friend and Winners Never Quit.

Lyrically, he doesn’t do enough heavy lifting, either. Instead of cutting to the core of faith, Bazan falls too easily into traps of questioning Bible stories (was there really a talking snake in the garden?) and picking bones with man-made Christian constructs (“When We Fell”). There are some wonderful passages, however, especially toward the ends of “Bearing Witness” and “Lost My Shape,” where the songwriter’s blend of Bible cadence and vernacular reminds us more than metaphorically what it was like when he was “good.”

Say Hi opens.

— Steve Forstneger

Click here to download “Bless This Mess.”

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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