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Pedro the Lion - Havasu Music Album Reviews

Pedro the Lion - Havasu Music Album Reviews
David Bazan reflects on small-town adolescence with an insular and empathetic album about tedium, disappointment, and simmering tension.

At age 12, David Bazan moved from Phoenix, Arizona to a town younger than himself. Lake Havasu City incorporated in 1978, evolving from a former Army Air Corps camp to a tourist trap fueled by international jet ski competitions and a brick-by-brick reconstruction of London Bridge. Bazan would be long gone by the time MTV Spring Break filmed on location in 1995. A terraformed community of affordable housing and immediate opportunity, Lake Havasu City held obvious appeal for a family like Bazan’s that would repeatedly uproot itself; Havasu is the second album of a planned Pedro the Lion pentalogy, each entry based in a city where Bazan grew up. On the opening track, “Don’t Wanna Move,” a shy, insecure, 12-year-old Bazan sits in the backseat, staring at pregnant storm clouds and internalizing a newfound sense of betrayal and injustice (“Still keep it hid and grit my teeth like you showed me/Still hope it’s not too late for someone to know me”).

Based around the riff of Phoenix closer “Leaving the Valley,” “Don’t Wanna Move” introduces the most minimal and insular Pedro the Lion album yet, as well as the most provocative: Bazan makes the formative experiences of being 13 years old feel inextricable from the tedium. He had no choice if Havasu was to be honest about the impact of leaving the ninth-most populous city in America for a town of about 24,000. The melodies of “Don’t Wanna Move” and “Too Much” seem to find their footing in real time, tracking Bazan’s awkward development as a social being in his new environment. After nearly three painstaking minutes dissecting the minutiae of woodwind embouchures and middle-school orchestra politics, “First Drum Set” speeds up, righting itself with a rudimentary yet joyous backbeat. It would be a little too cute if it weren’t the first time Havasu shook off the intentional torpor that Bazan attributes to both the 109-degree average summer heat and his own burgeoning awareness of depression.

When Bazan revived the Pedro the Lion project with Phoenix in 2019, following a 13-year hiatus, he tempered expectations by staying firmly within sturdy, midtempo power-trio indie rock. Havasu is even more explicit about setting his experimental leanings aside; it was originally planned as a synth album, a tribute to the barren landscape, prefab architecture, and popular music of late-’80s Arizona. But the crackling, dehydrated tones Pedro the Lion extract from their Les Pauls and austere drums do a better job of conjuring the parched expanse of Lake Havasu City than a Nord Lead ever could. The spindly, searching guitar figures of “Don’t Wanna Move” imagine Spirit of Eden if Mark Hollis sought deliverance in the American Southwest. Based on little more than a droning, four-note figure that repeats through its entirety, “Stranger” mesmerizes like heat refracting off blacktop.

For the most part, Havasu strives to build on Phoenix, a continuity that enriches itself and its predecessor and deepens Pedro the Lion’s backstory. In the band’s first iteration, Bazan was a conflicted man asking a lot of questions and pointing a lot of fingers. Whereas their 1998 debut It’s Hard to Find a Friend took an accusatory tone towards those who would sacrifice their principles for social acceptance, on Phoenix highlight “Quietest Friend” and the new album’s “Own Valentine,” Bazan empathizes with his younger self as someone who used manipulation to fill a void of self-esteem. “First Drum Set” is a sequel of sorts to Phoenix’s “Yellow Bike,” a jubilant awakening to possibilities outside his immediate surroundings; describing music as “sports about my feelings” is one of Bazan’s funniest lines yet and a reminder of its poignance for adolescent outcasts. Phoenix’s “Circle K” now foreshadows a heartbreaking scene on “Stranger” where Bazan again escapes into junk food for comfort, “eating my shame” at the snack bar after being shunned at a couples skate.

If Pedro the Lion 2.0 feels limited by Bazan’s softer, sweeter approach, it’s an indulgence he’s earned. Bazan has spent the past 20 years risking criticism and ex-communication to speak honestly about politics, sex, alcoholism, and God. As evidenced by the 2019 documentary Strange Negotiations, which followed him from house show to house show, he has been revered but not always rewarded. Yet Havasu truly sparks when his indignation returns on “Old Wisdom”: “You’re not allowed to see it/But you always had a choice/Between making a disciple/And knowing your little boy,” he moans, giving a voice to a skepticism towards parental figures (spiritual or otherwise) that his 13-year-old self understood but couldn’t express. Up to that point, Bazan describes himself as a passive participant in his own life, and by the end of Havasu, the Bazans are again packing the moving van, fretting about the security deposit, and demanding young David “keep a flexible attitude” as they head for Santa Cruz. But the simmering tensions have already started to creep in. Though Bazan spends most of Havasu processing his childhood, he’s slowly revealing the man he’d become.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Pedro the Lion - Havasu Music Album Reviews Pedro the Lion - Havasu Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, February 03, 2022 Rating: 5

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