David Bazan, the morose and introspective poet of faith and anomie behind the ponderous Pedro the Lion and Headphones, releases today his absolutely incredible solo record Curse your Branches on Barsuk Records.
There is a great article from the July 30 Chicago Reader linked to from the cover image below describing Bazan’s return to Illinois’ Cornerstone Christian rock festival this year. He had been kicked out of the dry event in 2004 for being in possession, both in the metaphysical and tactile senses, of a jug of vodka. Please don’t ignore but do look past the annoying fishing for cred the writer of the article engages in, and instead focus on the glances into a very weird and frankly scary Christian rock scene she provides where teenagers are “referring to scripture the way gang members throw signs” and where people hear songs and openly weep. Seriously, how on the edge with unhappiness are these people?
That set of his audience aside, Bazan has a no-holds-barred incisive moral talent for stitching stories together from those microscopic moments of personal ignominy or grand hubris that are the hallmark of our modern slavery to write songs that make you feel like you’re being shaken by the shoulders and told in an incontrovertibly definite manner you have no capacity to doubt that, hey, man- this is it, right now, fucking put yourself together with your human limitations and be, finally, a good person.
On his new album, his break-up record with religion, it’s not only the humanity out there in the trenches, but his former faith itself he’s putting on notice, all with the low, morose vocals, rich synthesizer tones, and echoing harmonies that make this, after all the analysis of his fantastic tales of fallen friends and long awaited triumphant ripostes, an unbelievably good pop record, a real joy to the ear.
You can download and listen to “Bless this Mess” from Curse your Branches from Barsuk.
I especially like how he cancels out the concept of hell with a bluesy and easy James Taylor vibe on “When We Fell”:
When you set the table, when you chose the scale, did you write a riddle that you knew they would fail? Did you make them tremble so they would tell the tale? Did you push us when we fell? What am I afraid of? Whom did I betray? In what medieval kingdom does justice work this way? You knew what would happen, and made us just the same, and you, my lord, can take the blame.
Lest the timid listener pigeonhole Bazan into that Christian rock thing, have a listen to his 2005 side project Headphones, and the beautifully articulated disappointment in the state of the art of art that is “Hot Girls” I love the fuck you to mindless pop embedded- beddazzled, even- in this weirdly kiltered pop gem. This one line has kept this song on rotation in the limited data real estate of my 1GB iPod Shuffle for months:
I tried to warn you, but it looks like I was wrong. I called to beg you not to write that stupid song. But, as it happens now, it’s burning up the charts and breaking hot girls’ hearts as it masquerades as art.
And, hey, have a listen to “Hot Girls” by Headphones
My only thing with this guy as regards his realization of the contradictions of Christianity is, yeah, what took you so long? Most of us figured this out by the time we reached the 8th grade.