Pedro the Lion

Published on August 2nd, 2019

Pedro the Lion

Hammered out of the embers of punk rock and Melvins-grade heaviness, grunge became synonymous with a city. But the burst of notoriety from Seattle’s big explosion cast long shadows from which another musical identity rose to prominence in the back half of the ’90s.

David Bazan, a Seattle transplant from Phoenix, Arizona, embodied this transition as the sole creative force behind indie darlings Pedro the Lion. Founded in 1995, Bazan’s slowcore emo outfit drew praise from critics and a legion of fans for its reflective first-person lyricism, which never shied from religious and political themes.

A sensitive lyricist operating in an increasingly polarized culture, Bazan wrote with a prescience that seemed to augur greater things for him and his band. Instead, misguidedly or not, he shunned the voice-of-a-generation role that circumstances held out to him. He called an end to the Pedro project, and left his leonine bandmates to seek greener pastures — which they did, scattering to the Shins, Death Cab for Cutie and Fleet Foxes.

Bazan concentrated on his solo career — or at least on music released under his given name, since he was always the Lion, really. But by then, four full-length albums, a handful of EPs and assorted compilation tracks had cemented Pedro the Lion’s stake in the transition to the aughts.

We can only guess what, if any, political developments might have spurred Bazan, in the winter of 2017, to resume work under the old band name. A new Pedro the Lion album, “Phoenix,” feels more like a homage to his hometown than a declaration of rebirth or resumption of cultural commentary, with Bazan turning the narrative focus to his childhood.

Fans will savor this “return” for its familiar sound and fidelity to Bazan’s creative process. It is also an invitation to come along from an older, more eloquent and less guarded storyteller as he allows himself a trip down memory lane. Musically, it may sound as if no time has passed since 2004’s “Achilles Heel.” But the endearing  moments of sweetness in “Phoenix” are laden with the inherent sadness of decades come and gone.

Pedro the Lion and mewithoutYou perform 7:30pm Friday August 16 at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale. pedrothelion.com ~ Abel Folgar

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