Pedro the Lion: Phoenix (Polyvinyl) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Pedro the Lion

Phoenix

Polyvinyl

Jan 21, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


I feel like I should level with you at the outset of this review. I love the music of David Bazan. Whatever he puts out is, almost without exception, great in my eyes. He is a truly generational songwriter, the kind who sadly is often only really appreciated once their best days are behind them. Whether it be through the Pedro the Lion moniker, solo, as Headphones, or with other bands Overseas or Lo Tom, it seems like virtually everything Bazan touches turns to gold. Which, given the almost uniformly downbeat lyrical character of his output could be considered somewhat ironic.

The decision to un-retire the Pedro the Lion moniker carried with it unmistakeable risk. Would it be a regressive step? Would the band be the same without the characterful drumming of TW Walsh? Would this really be Pedro the Lion? No, no, but it wasn't ever meant to be, and yes, absolutely.

It feels so good to hear Bazan letting go and letting rip again, as he does immediately on "Yellow Bike," the fantastic single which heralded the project, on "Clean Up," the kind of song which Bazan hasn't recorded since the heady days of Control, and on the downtempo but glorious "Powerful Taboo." These songs are a 1-2-3 punch beyond the dreams and execution of most bands. Every element of them, instrumentation, hooks, subject matter, gravitas, and the necessary ability for a rock song to make you feel alive, is so achingly present and correct, but you knew it would be, didn't you.

Elsewhere, "Black Canyon" is one of those storytelling songs that marks out this band as so special, as Bazan narrates a terribly sad scene of pain and injury. And as for the rollicking "My Phoenix," well, if there's a better rock song released by any band this year, it will be a special one.

Of course, one of the hallmarks of this band in the past has been Bazan's lyrical dexterity and his ability to create and develop a narrative concept throughout an album. Of course, in this, the first of a promised five-album cycle based around five key cities in his life, there is one, but to unpack and analyze it here would deny you the pleasure and joy of doing so for yourself. And I truly mean that, rather than merely seeking a cop out. Bazan's lyrics have a deeply personal feel to them. The impact they have on you should be yours.

Phoenix is wondrous. Except it's Bazan, with a band, the best kind of Bazan, so we shouldn't be surprised. Pedro the Lion is alive. And it is emotional. Like it always was at its best. (www.pedrothelion.com)  

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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