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November 15, 2004

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No matter how big David Bazan's Pedro the Lion gets, the band will probably never get on "Jay Leno" or "SNL" or "The OC." Three pudgy guys with beards and poor posture playing quiet, smart songs about God, infidelity and feminism are not exactly a KISS or Blue Man Group-like blueprint of showy prime-time entertainment.

By the time the band's next record drops, though, Pedro the Lion could be one of the biggest and most successful groups in independent music, mainly due to the band's connection with non-secular music. Pedro's lyrics about faith, and the lack thereof, have earned the band a huge Christian rock following — despite the fact that many of the lyrics deal with losing faith, doubting God's power and "backsliding" in the commitment to religion.

If there's one thing Christian rock audiences have it's money — money for shows, money for records, money for band t-shirts, stickers, and pins. An album in a Christian rock record store means big sales. Christian kids are looking for something better than the white-bread praise music they're fed by parents and clergy members. Give them bands with a more balanced point of view, something a little darker though still church-friendly, and they will eat it up.

This makes for an interesting dynamic at shows. Youth-group Christian teens in giggly masses, eyes closed and singing along, rub shoulders with cynical, scene-versed indie rock fans, who stand rail still and pretend not to care about anything. It's a wide polar divide. The Sharks and Jets ain't got nothin' on a Pedro audience.

The music also has a lot to do with Pedro's big-time status. Bazan's soft, sleepy mumble is earnest and trustworthy, a low whisper of storytelling, articulate and full of evocative, cinematic imagery.

Pedro's latest full-length record, "Achilles Heal" (Jade Tree), steps back and forth between solid but sparse guitar/bass/drums-rock and low-key solo tracks. All of Bazan's old themes are there: cheatin' hearts, sex, faith and the downfalls of a patriarchal society.

It is an album that shows a man on the brink of a spiritual breakdown, on the edge of an emotional precipice. Bazan's own stories and philosophies and ideas are told as dramatized accounts of fictional characters. It is a stunning, relevant piece of music — sad, engaging, and beautifully written.

Pedro also has a tour-only EP available at shows, featuring covers of Cat Power, Radiohead and Randy Newman. Ask Bazan for it at the merch booth. He's totally approachable.

Sign On San Diego

Adam Gnade