March 18, 2015

David Bazan

David Bazan has been on my mind a lot lately. My fandom of his has been cyclical since 1997, for both musical and spiritual reasons (the musical reasons hold up; the spiritual reasons, in hindsight, were flawed).

I finally bought his most recent two releases last night, which are monthly subscriptions. For the last 8 months he has released 2 tracks at a time, which can also be purchased as 7" records. All 16 new songs are really interesting, and this track may be my favorite Bazan tune in years:
 

I became aware of David Bazan in 1997 when I bought Pedro the Lion's Whole EP in a Christian bookstore (I didn't know it at the time, but I had heard his drumming on numerous punk and hardcore songs in the years prior). I bought it for two reasons: one, the packaging was awesome, and two, as an EP, it was cheap (probably $6.99). That led to me seeing him in concert for the first time in 1998, around the time It's Hard to Find a Friend was released, in a small skate shop (Slacker 66 in Birmingham, AL).

I was a HUGE Pedro the Lion fan from 1998-2002, and bought every release (CDs, EPs, 7"s) and saw them (him) in concert probably a dozen times in that 5 year span. While loving his music, I also identified with him personally as a Jesus-follower who did not fit within America's Christian culture.

My fandom started to wane with the release of Achilles Heel in 2004. While containing 2 or 3 great songs, that album did not impact me the way his previous releases had. 2005 brought Headphones, Bazan's electronic project. Not only did I think it was poor musically, lyrically I also found it weak. I was also annoyed by his overuse of profanity, and his apparent goal of offending as much of his fan base as he could. (But honestly I think Headphones is really terrible musically, almost unlistenable. Thankfully Bazan incorporates electronic elements into his music well now, a decade later.)

2007's Fewer Moving Parts EP was his first release under his own name, dropping Pedro the Lion permanently (and Headphones; and Paperback, a moniker he toured under but never released music with). While a step-up musically from his "failed" electronic project, I still did not connect to the songs. Around this time was when Bazan became more open about his loss of faith (essentially stating he no longer believed Jesus is God.) This was staggering to me, and didn't know how to deal with it.

Then in 2009 Bazan released his first true "solo" album, Curse Your Branches. As far as I know, this is his first autobiographical album (most of his previous songs are fictional stories), and it chronicled and outlined his beliefs. Musically it was stunning, easily Bazan's best work since 2002's Control. Lyrically, it was shocking, as he essentially expressed all his anger and resentment towards God, and his disbelief of the Bible. (Ironically, it was also his "cleanest" album in over a decade, containing no profanity, no sex, etc.) Listening to this album was a challenge for me, because it revealed that Bazan no longer shared the faith I center my life on.

Despite no longer identifying with Bazan from a spiritual standpoint, Curse Your Branches restored my love for him as a musician. And it helped me understand that he didn't need to be a follower of Jesus for me to love him as an artist and person (took me way too long to figure that out!).

Christ and Pop Culture published an excellent article about Bazan last week. Then a couple of days later David Dark tweeted a link to a video conversation between he and Bazan (below). That article and the video led to much thought, which led to my purchase of his most recent work, and in turn led me to writing this post.



Probably what stands out the most to me from both the article and video is how Bazan is still so close to so many people who are followers of Jesus. That should be obvious, but it took Bazan saying it for me to consider the depths of those relationships. The CAPC article brought these Bazan lyrics to my attention, from the song "People":
"i wanna know who are these people
blaming their sins on the fall
who are these people
if i’m honest with myself at all
these are my people
man what else can i say
you are my people
and we’re the same in so many ways"

Bazan has now been married for 15 years. When he got married, he and his wife probably shared most of their beliefs. Now their beliefs are drastically different, but they stay committed to one another and their vows (all the more impressive considering the number marriages that end in divorce when both partners theoretically share the same beliefs).

In the video you've got David Dark, an outspoken Christian writer, who is close friends with Bazan, and they reference frequent spiritual/theological discussions they have. My favorite line from the conversation is when Bazan says this: "If you believe in what Jesus said--which I almost do--you can't be trying to collect power over other people. It's not what He was trying to have you do."

Outstanding live video performance of "People" (begins at 3:35):




Bazan studio albums and EPs, ranked:
1. Pedro the Lion- Control (2002)
2. Pedro the Lion- It's Hard to Find a Friend (1998)
3. David Bazan- Curse Your Branches (2009)
4. Pedro the Lion- Winners Never Quit (2000)
5. Pedro the Lion- The Only Reason I Feel Secure EP (1999)
6. Pedro the Lion- Whole EP (1997)
7. David Bazan- Monthly Volume 1 (2014)
8. David Bazan- Monthly Volume 2 (2015)
9. David Bazan- Strange Negotiations (2011)
10. Pedro the Lion- Achilles Heel (2004)
11. David Bazan- Fewer Moving Parts EP (2007)
12. Headphones- Headphones (2005)

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