I’ve written before about my reluctance to get too personal for the Internet. It stems from never being sure what could potentially come back to haunt me, so I’m hesitant to get all Thought Catalog on here.
This, I might mention, is not to be confused for editorializing. I’m all for that. This whole project is one big, 365-day editorial.
Which is why I’m thankful for people like John Gold and today’s artist, David Bazan. The brain behind Pedro the Lion, Headphones, and most recently, OVERSEAS, Bazan is one of the most transparent artists I’ve ever happened upon, and maybe the most honest one out there.
The prototypical “good guy,” he may be the only example I can give of a blue collar musician: traveling and playing shows in living rooms – literally – to pay for health insurance for his wife and kids.
There are three songs in particular on the album where Bazan spells it out for his audience: “Hard to Be”; “When We Fell”; “Bearing Witness“; and the stirring closer, “In Stitches.”
Look: I don’t believe in hero worship, and I think anyone who “looks up” to “rock stars” is kind of foolish. Because at the root of it, they’re still just people. Yeah, Dave Grohl might have two hundred million dollars just lying around somewhere, but he still has to eat human food in order to sustain life. I’m certain that he has fears, doubts, maybe even regrets.
That said, I look up to Bazan’s ability to be transparent to the point of making people uncomfortable. Here’s a guy whose Pedro the Lion project in the 1990’s played youth groups now writing this passage:
Wait just a minute.
You expect me to believe
that all this misbehaving grew from one enchanted tree?
And helpless to fight, it we should all be satisfied
With this magical explanation for why the living die?
And this isn’t just a phase or something that he feels he will change his mind about later after further evaluation: Bazan makes a metaphorical allusion to his ‘big decision’ later in this song, the album’s opener “Hard to Be,” that “after graduation, there’d be no going back.”
While I still may be sorting through the very same issues that Bazan has, I admire both his willingness to write about it, and his honest-to-goodness attitude about the whole thing in ways that I never could be. I may even be a bit envious of it. He doesn’t owe the sneering public eye an explanation about why or why he does or doesn’t believe in God anymore… but he’s giving them one nonetheless. Truth be told, he’s given them 10 tremendous, mid-temp indie rock songs about his struggles with organized religion, alcoholism and being a good father to his children.
What more could you ask of the guy? He’s a good dad, got sober, and now puts on must-see live shows night in and night out. The predictable Christian backlash and “prayer outreach” for Bazan’s faith abandonment is a laughable insult.
Though technically the first release under his name, Curse Your Branches is not a debut by any stretch of the imagination. This is a creative masterwork.
The final minute of this record is a punch to the gut, and must be heard in the context of the whole album to be fully appreciated. The closing lyrics say it better than I ever could:
When Job asked you the question,
You responded, “Who are you
to challenge your Creator?”
Well, if that one part is true,
it makes you sound defensive.
Like you had not thought it through
enough to have an answer.
Like you might have bit off
more than you could chew.
Curse Your Branches comes with my highest recommendation.
From his ‘break-up letter to God,’ this is David Bazan’s “When We Fell” –
Standout tracks: “Bless This Mess” and “Lost My Shape”
Weakest track: I waver at times on “Heavy Breath,” but that guitar riff live is ridiculous.
RIYL: Honesty as the best policy. Pedro the Lion, Headphones, TW Walsh, singer-songwriters.