Pedro the Lion - Control (Cover Artwork)

Pedro the Lion

Control (2002)

Jade Tree

Ahh, the concept album. Many have tried and succeeded to produce a record with one underlying theme, UNKLE comes to mind, as does the good old Sgt. Peppers album by the Beatles. That being said, many too have failed, and many say Pedro the Lion's last LP, 'Winners Never Quit', which tells the story of a corrupt politician's return to grace- not the most exciting subject matter - didn't quite make the grade. So, Pedro the Lion, aka David Bazan, tackled it again with 'Control', and inside he tells the story of a marriage breakdown and the violence surrounding it.

Okay, still doesn't sound that exciting, but the music is what counts, and Bazan really has put his all into this one. One of my major complaints about his earlier work was the lack of improvisation, in that his drum and bass lines were the bare minimum. I know, I don't have the talent to play every instrument on an album, but it sounded a little too laboured for me.

Thankfully, he's gone and learned how to play again. And it really does show, especially on 'Magazine', with it's wandering drum lines and impressive fills highlighting that Bazan is really taking every instrument seriously, and not veiwing it as simply a backup to his voice.

'Options' opens the story, and it's very simple lyrics spell out all thats ahead well: 'I could never divorce you / without a good reason / and though I may never want to / it's good to have options' 'Rapture' follows, and is one of the best tracks on the record, with it's heavily distorted chords and Bazan's slightly muffled vocals creating quite an atmoshpere. 'Penetration' is a biting number that seems to be in reference to the economy and it's effect on the worker, perhaps as a catalyst for disharmony: 'If it isn't making dollars / then it isn't making sense / if you aren't moving units / then you aren't worth the expense'

'Indian Summer' sounds like it's the most upbeat song on the record, but the lyrics are deceiving: 'The experts say you ought to start them young / that way they'll naturally love the taste of coporate cum' shows just how raw and angry Bazan's lyrics ahve been come, but he masterfully hides it behind a jangle pop song.

The story comes to a close with 'Priests & Paramedics' and 'Rejoice', the former a haunting recount of the final confrontation between husband and wife that's brutal realism stays with you for some time. Infact, it's so effective that 'Rejoice' is barely noticable afterwards, and by the time the album has ended you have barely recovered from the quiet assault in 'Priests...' I'd happily (well, maybe not happily in respect to the subject) say that it's as effective as an album closer can be.

It seems to me that the concept of a concept album is not dead yet, and that Pedro the Lion will keep it alive a little longer yet.