Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: Curse Your Branches, David Bazan, Pedro the Lion
PREVIEW: Download David Bazan’s “Please, Baby, Please” MP3
WE GIVE IT: 14/20 Watts
David Bazan‘s had a rough time lately. Ending things with the band that made him famous on the indie rock scene, being a single parent, hating the religion that originally got him to sing and alcoholism will do that. Getting into his latest post-Pedro the Lion effort Curse Your Branches, he may have ditched the alcoholism, but the effects of it, and the rest of his problems, are still largely apparent in the music he lives through.
Like any other Bazan-related release, Curse Your Branches leans extensively on his three big issues– God, sex and alcohol. Unlike his early Pedro the Lion material however, this is no longer the work of a man who loves Christianity. Rather, as listeners witnessed on the later Pedro releases and his first solo recording, he’s become a cynic and a critic of the religion that once inspired his work most. Every mention of God and the church is completely tongue-in-cheek, most notably on “Harmless Sparks,” where he suggests the errors of the clergy’s ways and openly mocks the establishment altogether.
This struggle he’s still coming to grips with isn’t always a boon to his song writing though. As intriguing as Bazan’s about-face of faith may seem to outsiders, it has created a vicious clash within him over the years — hence the alcoholism and issues with the female sex he documents in song. The conflicts that rage on have affected the focus and central theme of his music, leaving him a bit lost in between worlds.
To top it all off, it’s also prevented him from being the parent he’d like to be for his young daughter. This is lamented on “In Stitches,” coincidentally the most beautiful track he’s ever graced the public with. It’s a piano ballad the likes of which he’s never constructed, facing his demons in a state of weakness and acknowledging his faults for what they are. If you’ve been a fan of Bazan since his early days, you’ve never seen him this vulnerable, nor emotional, yet it works as a fantastic, albeit uncharacteristic closer.
As much as Bazan seems more comfortable with the sound of this album, which embraces more western folk than indie rock, you can’t help but notice a lack of definition. Still, as a longtime fan, one can appreciate his attempts to leave his comfort zone here, employing fresh musical elements and a much different mood. It’s a new approach, maybe for both his personal life and his music, and hopefully it all works out in the end.
— John Cassillo, Reviews Editor