Friday, January 20, 2012

David Bazan


Ink, Graphite, Ballpoint pen, Charcoal, Digital

I've been a long time fan of David Bazan's work.  It's about time this portrait happened.
I find myself at a complete loss of words to do Bazan and his work justice, so I'm going to have a good friend, a far better writer than I, jump in and take the reigns. 
I will say one thing though, it's amazing for someone to make such a beautiful body of work, but it's incredible to create one that's also consistently so genuine.

So without any further of my babble, here's Michael Glasney.
Thanks again Mike, it's an honor to have your words up here.

"I have 78 Pedro the Lion songs on my Ipod. I have a playlist which contains 37 of them. It should say a lot that I consider half of their songs "favorites." (I like the other half too).

David Bazan was the songwriting mastermind behind the group, and his music was a slowly acquired taste for me. Typically very  sparse and slow in tempo, I suppose many people would find his music boring. If you are an active listener though, I suspect you will find, like I did, that his albums are among the most rewarding listens of the last decade.

I suspect that part of the reason he remains as unknown as he has for so long stems from the fact that much of his early work dealt with questions of faith. Pedro the Lion, who released their final album in 2004, was a christian band; Bazan attended bible college and his parents were deeply involved in evangelical circles. 

But this was not the Christian music you might be accustomed to, nor were his songs always about religion. 

Much of Pedro's lyrics approached the subject of God with apprehension. While Bazan was raised in an evangelical household, he spent most of his musical life wrestling with his own doubts and his own anger about his faith. He also frequently wrote about divorce and substance abuse, both of which seem to have played a great role in his personal development. In spite of that, he was a man of great faith, or at least tried to be. As his doubts overtook him began to drink heavily, and in 2006 Pedro the Lion broke up. He has since sobered up, I imagine much in part because he is now raising children.

Recently, he has released  work under his own name, and has taken to performing solo sets. His current work is, in many ways very much like Pedro the Lion, with one stark lyrical difference: he has abandoned his faith completely. Much of his lyrics lament his former belief system, and disparage organized religion and right wing politics. 

His first "solo" album, 2009's Curse Your Branches was almost entirely about god and organized religion, which sort of made it the most god centric album he had ever made. Of course, with Pedro, God was ultimately the answer to the quandaries he faced, whereas he is now a question mark, and a source of mental anguish. Last year he released Strange Negotiations, which continued the trend, but came across as significantly less angry, and perhaps musically closer to Pedro the Lion. (An interesting tidbit regarding this album: the recording was funded entirely by fan pre-orders.)

When Kyle asked me to write a post about Bazan, I  thought that I simply could not quantify what is was I loved about his work, but I will try:

What makes Bazan appealing as a songwriter to me are the poignancy of his lyrics, which I will decline to post of out of context at the risk of robbing them of their impact.

He is a brilliant storyteller with a keen sense of metaphor. His struggles are relate-able, and his telling of those struggles are profound and striking human portraits; lyrically heartbreaking and melodically infectious. 

If you have the time, I suggest you get into Bazan; Stecker and I love the guy."







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