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March 28, 2002

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Pedro the Lion is David Bazan. To tell you the sort of guy Bazan is, you had to have been there when he, without hesitating, gave merchandise away to a person who mentioned loving the band's music, but not having a cent on them. The gesture was sincere and generous -- two adjectives that lead directly to describing the gift that Pedro the Lion brings to the table.

Pedro the Lion's Winners Never Quit offers the kind of tension most songwriters can only toss a shadow towards. Bazan fixates on the ambiguousness of how we define our 'winners,' those who claim the championship ring at a price that is not worth paying, the winners smothering their true selves beneath the surface of a glossy veneer. The one sentence line above the lyric page, "a good person is someone who hasn't been caught," sets the stage for the repeating theme that absolutes are rare truths that allow for our frailty and grace.

The care and quiet of earlier recordings were Pedro the Lion's distinguishing traits. Winners finds Bazan expanding and eluding the same softness that drew them critical praise. "Simple Economics," "A Mind of Her Own," and "Never Leave a Job Half Done" are louder, forceful and, ultimately, the saddest songs. The latter two prove the most chilling in placing the narrator in the shoes of an abusive lover. The violence and its delivery are on what side of the finish line: Who's quitting, and just who's winning?

Winners Never Quit still holds the slow, delicate melody, and lazy vocal that is recognized as the band's greatest asset. Interestingly enough, Pedro the Lion's greatest strength is in tearing apart the script that the music press insists defines them.


Conrad Nystrom