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David Bazan - Curse Your Branches (Cover Artwork)

David Bazan

David Bazan: Curse Your BranchesCurse Your Branches (2009)
Barsuk Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: DarrenMcLeodDarrenMcLeod
(others by this writer | submit your own)

David Bazan is probably a polarizing figure around here, and there are two reasons for that. The first is that his music is not of the short, fast, and loud variety; Bazan plays folk rock songs that are slow, deliberate and melancholic. The second is that Bazan gained popularity under the name Pedro.
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David Bazan is probably a polarizing figure around here, and there are two reasons for that. The first is that his music is not of the short, fast, and loud variety; Bazan plays folk rock songs that are slow, deliberate and melancholic. The second is that Bazan gained popularity under the name Pedro the Lion, where he sang about God through a Christian lens. While Bazan's musical style has not changed dramatically since dropping the Pedro moniker (though he has infused a greater pop sensibility than before), his perspective on the divine certainly has: Bazan now considers himself an agnostic. Curiously, his agnosticism has resulted in more religious themes than ever, but in a far more skeptical and -- depending on your viewpoint -- relatable form than previous efforts.

This is obvious on the first track, "Hard to Be," where Bazan references his leaving the Christian fold: "I swung my tassel to the left side of my cap, knowing after graduation there would be no going back and no congratulations from my faithful family, some of whom are already fasting to intercede for me." It's a touching moment referring to what is undoubtedly the biggest struggle for many people leaving any religion, and Bazan puts it right in his six-minute opening track -- a bold move for someone with a very large Christian fanbase. The new disc will challenge and perhaps alienate some of his old fans, as Bazan offers intelligent questioning of religious passages or commonly held beliefs. This is perhaps the greatest strength of Curse Your Branches, as Bazan's intricate knowledge of Christianity makes for far more insightful lyrics than the norm. Bazan is not so much taking a firm position as he is trying to provoke in his listener the same questions that he has found himself asking. For example, on the closing track "In Stitches," Bazan finishes the disc by singing "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."

Religion is one of the two main recurring themes, the other being Bazan's personal struggles with the bottle and its effects on his family. Both are handled with great sincerity, the latter perhaps best seen on "Please, Baby, Please." In sharp contrast to the dark lyrics, "Please, Baby, Please" is the most upbeat tune on the disc, and arguably the catchiest song Bazan's ever recorded. It's a standout on the disc, with beautiful backing vocals and a nice bouncy acoustic guitar rhythm throughout. Another highlight that has to be mentioned is "Harmless Sparks," an absolutely heartbreaking track that proposes an alternate reality where priests are allowed to marry and have consensual sex, and giving the clergy this outlet for their natural sexual urges would result in them "making harmless sparks instead of breaking little boys' hearts."

If there's a weakness on the disc, it is perhaps that it's a bit top-heavy, as the latter half doesn't have quite the same impact as the first. But when that's the biggest complain that one can muster, you have to believe it's a very strong disc. Curse Your Branches is Bazan's strongest album since Pedro the Lion's Control. It's an intelligent, moving, and diverse album that showcases how strong of a songwriter he really is.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
audiofile27 (November 6, 2009)

im not too happy about this review, there is so much more going on

plaidical (October 24, 2009)

honestly, this isn't that good. I like it. but I'm disappointed. I had a great time at the live show, but I'll probably forget about this record in a month

gritty (October 21, 2009)

May have spoke too soon. I like it a lot more the 4th time through. Probably should have caught the show. Fuck.

10-4Eleanor (October 21, 2009)

I'm really fucking into this record after only 2 listens through.

RedElephant (October 21, 2009)

good album.. but still think It's Hard To Find A Friend is his best work.

gritty (October 21, 2009)

I've been a big fan a long time. I always caught him when he came to Boston, as Pedro, Headphones, solo. Always a good show, but was looking forward to seeing him with a live band again as it had been a while. I was really disappointed with this album. It just seems really boring to me. Doesn't have the sick, witty lyrics of albums past. Musically there is not much going on. Seems repetitive. Honestly, it puts me to sleep. When I saw he is only playing the new songs live, I decided to sit tis one out. Oh well, they can't all be zingers I guess. I didn't like Achilles much at first, but love it now. Maybe this will be a grower.

stephenharris (October 21, 2009)

I think this is even better than any of his Pedro the Lion stuff....and I really loved the Pedro the Lion stuff.

TheChemist (October 21, 2009)

Really excited to hear this. I loved Pedro The Lion and never saw why Achilles Heel got such a bad response. Score is for listening to Pedro The Lion my senior year of high school.

colin (October 21, 2009)

i haven't liked much of bazan's output since control, but i love that and most of pedro's catalog prior to it. this isn't really better than any of it, but it's certainly worth noting that he can still write good songs.

sexualsunshine (October 20, 2009)

I really want to see whats up with this. Havent heard anything he's done since Control... which I loved but just didn't keep up with him after that.

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