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Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
Artist: Pedro the Lion
Label: Jade Tree
Length: 11 tracks, 38:12
Pedro the Lion's Control was a masterpiece and due to its heart-wrenching lyrics and bold music, I gave it a perfect rating in 2002. Achilles Heel is the band's follow up and sees them moving in a slightly different direction.
The music branches out a bit more than we're used to from Pedro the Lion. There are no outright rockers like we saw on Control and there are few dirges like we fell in love with on It's Hard to Find a Friend. Songs like "Transcontinental" and "I Do" experiment outside the normal Pedro the Lion musical boundaries with positive results. On the other hand, an incredibly well written song like "The Poison" loses its punch with a weak, lazy acoustic version.
Unlike many of Pedro's releases, Achilles Heel does not have one overarching story that all of the songs tie into. However, most of the songs do seem like they tie into some story that is only being told in part. If singer/songwriter David Bazan seemed cynical on Control, he has definitely gone over the edge now. There are more Christian references to be found on Achilles Heel than we have seen since 1998's It's Hard to Find a Friend, but the songs are not necessarily faith afirming. Bazan's lyrics wallow in doubt and biting humor.
In "Foregone Conclusions" we hear Bazan utter lines to make Christian bookstores cringe: "You were too busy steering the conversation toward the Lord / To hear the voice of the Spirit begging you to shut the f*** up / You said it must be the devil trying to make you go astray / Besides it couldn't have been the Lord because you don't believe he talks that way." The sarcasm can be infectious, but it does seem overboard at times. "The Poison" is one of the darkest (and probably best) songs that David Bazan has ever written: "My old man always swore that hell would have no flame / Just a front row seat to watch your true love pack her things and drive away." Another highlight is "Transcontinental," a song about a man who loses his legs when he is run over by a train.
Achilles Heel shows a talented and depressed David Bazan. The songs are good enough to deserve repeat listens, but if those listens come too often the listener could easily find themselves a cynic of the Bazan variety. While this may be valuable at times, I have to think that in the long run it would become unbearable.
Trae Cadenhead 5/24/2004