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May 25, 2004

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No matter how many years go by or many more albums are added to their catalogue, you can count on Pedro the Lion for a few things: 1) Songwriting at a level almost without peer. 2) A slight tint of spirituality and deeper thinking you can always feel but not always hear. 3) Melodies and instrumentation that can both stir rage and at the same time draw a river of tears.

Everybody knows David Bazan is the man behind Pedro's curtain, getting his fingernails underneath the carpet of your emotions, ready to yank it out at any moment. In his latest creation, Achilles Heel, listen for what you've heard in prior Pedro efforts. Don't look for any groundbreaking experimentation. Don't look for a lot of hard driving rock like we got from 2002's Control. Bazan might have gone back to the feel of It's Hard to Find a Friend.But it still has the clever word play, the heartfelt storytelling and the beautiful interplay between the guitars and Bazan's voice. It stirs up sorrowful, almost bitter taste, but leaves a little hope lingering afterwards.

This album's menu is highlighted by "A Simple Plan," a late track on the album that's worth the wait. It boasts a catchy bassline and nice melodic vocals. "Transcontinental" may sound like a folky rock song, and that's all it is -- if you manage to ignore more of Bazan's brilliant storytelling. "Bands With Managers," a tongue-in-cheek appraisal of the state the modern music scene pushes the album forward right from the beginning, while "Arizona" sits as an ode to rock paper scissors. "I Do" finds Bazan still struggling with the marital issues that dominated Control, an album that Achilles doesn't measure up to at this point. But then again, it took me a while to really figure out the power Control incubated within itself.

Pedro has already begun a U.S. tour that started in California and will swing eastward and then west again, ending in mid-July in Seattle.


Aaron Besecker