Santa Cruz by Pedro The Lion album review by Greg Walker for Northern Transmissions. The singer/songwriter's LP is now out via Polyvinyl


Santa Cruz

Pedro The Lion

“At one with the weather / and the cold waves / a sea and a mountain / in their eroding embrace / forever,” David Bazan sings in the title track to his latest album with Pedro The Lion, a band that has put the “rock” in indie rock (both musically and metaphorically) since as far back as 1997, with some breaks in between, for Bazan’s personal growth and projects.

It’s the third album in a promised five album review of his younger life, and it finds him moving enough times that his head is “on a swivel,” following his dad’s jobs as a worship pastor in different parts of California and Washington state. Whether it is the “stupidest backpack / regretted it” that makes him feel like he’ll never be cool enough to make new friends in 8th grade, or loading up “several hefty garbage bags / I packed up my whole life” his senior year of high school, after he “finally got some roots down,” Bazan digs deep, like he’s in therapy, on this album, to understand a rootless feeling that he has felt for practically his whole life. In order to exorcise his demons, comfort his inner child, and empathize with other people about the wounds that we received in childhood.

An avid Pedro the Lion and David Bazan fan, myself, I put the album on, first thing in the morning, today on release day, and was washed in tinny synths and chugging guitars and Bazan’s oh-so-familiar baritone. But nothing prepares you for the depth and pathos and compassion that permeates his songs, when you finally get the lyrics in your hands. You feel for the growing teenager who moves, not once, or twice, (he already moved twice before in childhood, to Phoenix and (Lake) Havasu, the titles of his two previous autobiographical records since readopting the venerable Pedro the Lion moniker), but five times in the five year period that Santa Cruz represents.

It deals with his humble relationship with Christianity, (the album is a sort of commentary on the faith of his parents’ Charismatic faith that left him so rootless as a child, though he has only honorable things to say about his parents in this album,) his dynamic relationship with music and being a musician, (he is ashamed to tell his cousins he’s started a band in the single, “Spend Time” and recalls the song that convinced him he must put his own songs to four track), and his relationship with what appears to be his future wife.

For any stalwart Pedro fan like myself, the music, the poetry, the compelling story is a clear window into the heart and history of a man who has always put his heart on the line for his listeners and fans. I don’t think this is a good entry point for the new listener (try his early, Hard To Find a Friend, or the emo-tinged, concept album, Control), and his singles, for sure, are a better representation of what Pedro can do as a rock band. But for those who have been along for the whole ride, this is cinematic gold, musically and lyrically. It’s a perfect sign of what both a committed songwriter and committed fan base can experience cathartically, and hopefully will lead to real healing and really great art in Bazan’s impressive wake.

order Santa Cruz by Pedro The Lion HERE

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