August 17, 2009

David Bazan - Curse Your Branches

In semi-Christian circles, or, more accurately, people who grew up Christian, listening to Christian music, and then bailed when it became abundantly clear that most Christians weren’t like them at all except for a hazily shared belief in the same deity, David Bazan of Pedro the Lion fame is kind of like a demigod. ”He says fuck just like me!” ”He drinks like I like to!” And they won’t admit it, but he’s had the same doubts that they’ve had but has had the commercial foresight to document his religious doubt. He’s essentially spent the last decade or so tiptoeing around Christian music, but not far enough to create a career independent of it. Bazan himself went to an Assemblies of God college. Pedro the Lion promoted it’s first Tooth and Nail Records release by touring youth groups. Gradually he grows disenchanted, the Christian crowds turn on him, he dabbles in drinking and atheism, and inexplicably plays the 2009 Cornerstone Festival. Somebody has pictures of somebody, I think. Or JPUSA, who run Cornerstone, is hurting for cash badly.

Now that he’s agnostic (or, paraphrasing his words, that he can’t prove God isn’t real, but not sure he believes in it, and “He’s not this vindictive little bitch Christianity has made him out to be,” but hell is not), you’d think, “Man, writing about religious imagery is bound to take a backseat. Surely he won’t run that well dry…er.” Well, kids you would all be wrong.

The music is as incredible as any Pedro the Lion album ever was. It’s sharp, crisp, and every thing you would want from an album David Bazan is associated with. His singing is on target, full, and powerful.

But I’m a nerd. My degree was in history, so reading things is what I do well. And Bazan is really plugged into the whole “failed relationships/religious consternation” motif that has been defining his career since 2002’s Control. And that’s ok, you know? Everybody needs something. Tim Kasher milked his divorce dry over two musical projects spanning a decade before he settled down into other territory.

I understand that this album is an intensely personal, losing-his-religion kind of thing, but I’ll be glad when he sorts that out and starts being able to tell stories again. You never put too much of yourself into your art, no matter how cathartic of an experience it is. But David Bazan decided that wasn’t for him. And ultimately, I don’t think this album is for me.