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October 16, 2001

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Amid the current revival in goth music, it seems people are venturing back to the '80s for the gloomy sounds of Joy Division and Bauhaus. Unbeknownst to many outside the Northwest, Seattle's Pedro The Lion could easily fill that need for despair and tragedy within pop music. Black clothes and makeup are optional.
It's Hard To Find A Friend, Pedro The Lion's first full-length album, is sealed with a heavy haze of melancholy, fear and soul-searching. Unlike countless bands that sing of the same, leader David Bazan sounds sincere by channeling his manic depressive behavior through the lyrics and music. Following the "less is more" philosophy of like-minded bands Codeine and Low, the five-piece Pedro manages to hold back twice as many notes as it plays, creating highly memorable melodies along the way.
Bazan's lyrics walk the line between obtuse and blatantly cheesy. His shy and seemingly desperate voice saves him from sounding like an anguished, love-scorned 14-year-old. Although it seems that is what Bazan strives for: words that high schoolers and 30-something divorcees can find comfort in.
Opener "Of Up And Coming Monarchs" borrows heavily from Red House Painters' Songs For A Blue Guitar album by swiping the riff of the title track, stripping it down to bare chords and repeating them for the duration of the song. On "Bad Diary Days," Bazan leads the band through a song about a cheating girlfriend that clearly shows his vulnerability:
There are ticket stubs in her desk that I have never seen / I probably shouldn't ask / It sounds so accusing / She must have forgotten to mention girl's night out.
Leaving behind the almost suicidal vibe of Pedro's debut EP Whole, which dealt heavily with drug addiction and death, It's Hard To Find A Friend could be the band's coming of age album. Many of the songs center on Bazan's relationship with his father and God, or lack thereof. "Big Trucks" is a father and son's conversation about respecting rude drivers, while "The Secret Of The Easy Yoke" is Bazan's apology for breaking a promise he made to his father.
The 12 songs here tread such stark territory that they may cause listeners to either stay in bed for a week or to decide to face life head-on and forgo the consequences. Tough like the work of Bazan's regional neighbor Elliott Smith, the album never seems homogenized or devoid of vigor. No matter how hopeless Bazan becomes, the band's sparse arrangements give the listener a glimmer of sunshine by the notes chosen.
It's on closing track "Promise" that Bazan sums up his approach to life and gives a summary of the album as a whole: "I'll take something to believe / Something with long-sleeves / Cause it's unpredictable." Well said.

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