June 5, 2004
PEDRO THE LION: MOODY AND MELANCHOLY STORYTELLING
Seattleites Pedro the Lion bring their lilted indie-pop to Bottom of the Hill in support of their new CD, Achilles Heel, their first new release since 2002's Control. Mainstays on the indie rock scene, and long lumped in the same category as bands such as Sebadoh, Hayden, and Bedhead, Pedro The Lion might not have broad pop appeal, but their songs are pretty and subdued and will have you recalling them long after they've stopped playing. Singer David Bazan's strings his understated vocals out over the persistent chunking of semi-fuzzed guitars; they run the risk of getting lost somewhere in the melancholia of the hair-pushed-in-front-of-your-face indie scene.
But, Pedro the Lion should carry an appeal for any patient listener, even those unfamiliar with the indie-pop oeuvre. Bazan writes simple tales of isolation and despair. Like Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the songs take place in the nether-regions of Americana- not quite urban or rural, just lonely. Bazan sings with an almost lullaby-like simplicity. "Discretion", a new song from Achilles Heel, opens with the line "Having no idea that his youngest son was dead/the farmer and his sweet young wife slept soundly in his bed." Bazan hits a mood quickly and holds it for the right amount of time; no song lasts too long. And though most of the songs are subdued and melancholy, they are at least pretty, recognizable and interesting.
Pedro the Lion's strength is in the cohesive affect of their songs. The new material is a step forward for the band, and should appeal to a broader audience. The songs are emotionally simpler and rely less on storytelling. Both longtime indie-pop veterans and fans of songwriting should visit Bottom of the Hill. In support is longtime indie mainstay John Vanderslice, whose career as an innovator was obscured by a wave of publicity surrounding the release of his song "Bill Gates Must Die".
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