Pedro the Lion – Phoenix

Even though David Bazan has put out five full-length solo records and a slew of EPs, splits, and singles since the mid-2000s (the guy is pretty prolific), his newest record makes for the first release under the Pedro the Lion moniker since 2004’s Achilles Heel. Really and truly, this one isn’t so much of a Pedro the Lion record as it’s just a Bazan “plugged in” with “some other dudes plugged in with him” record. The original Pedro the Lion personnel (aside from Bazan) had already moved on to some other bigger and brighter things when the band originally disbanded back in 2004 – they went to Death Cab for Cutie, Fleet Foxes, and The Shins (tough break, pal).

But the Polyvinyl record label is all about putting out any tiny bit of horseshit cult nostalgia that might sell to any small niche of a niche crowd of hipster asshats and quite frankly that’s all this is – horseshit cult nostalgia. But it’s not all that bad, it has some limited appeal (so do Adam Sandler movies). David Bazan, a one trick pony, who has one of the most monotone, uninteresting, low-energy, non-emotional (which is ironic ’cause he creates and performs “emo” music) voices in underground music, has created the same basic, hackneyed, trite, simplistic songs for nearly two decades and he hasn’t evolved much at all from that formula. Still, his fan base adores him and his songs (hey, like what you like, it’s okay). If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

The lyrical content remains the same – Bazan bitching about everything – and it’s quite lame and nauseating. It’s a grown man, now 43, complaining about capitalism, talking out his past feelings, resentments, anxiety, relationships with family and friends, literally looking back and worrying on his childhood, to his time in grade school in Phoenix, Arizona (thus the album title) (but like seriously, dude, you’re 43, grade school?). Like most of Bazan’s work, there are many Christian themes/elements. While Pedro the Lion isn’t exactly a “Christian band,” they’re “Christians in a band.” To me, that’s a giant red flag. That just means 1) cringy, 2) just admit it, you’re a Christian band already!

Bazan is the father of “sadcore.” Sad music can be awesome sometimes, but this kind of sad music is just really cheesy, like Chuck E. Cheese cheesy. But hey, if you like it, go for it. May all your “sadcore” dreams come true.

Pedro the Lion