Thursday, January 13, 2011

David Bazan

Bazan is a unique influence, because I know him.  At least at an acquaintance level.  We run in many of the same circles: I have friends who went to highschool with him, friends who were at his wedding, friends who have toured with him, and recorded with him, I did a recording project at his house years ago and even officiated his sister's wedding.  I like Dave, and as I have followed the world of music (especially college years and beyond), there was age...making his mark.  Pedro the Lion (PTL), Dave's long time band before he went solo, was fresh, hip and THE definition of Indie rock in my mind.  I fell in love with this music and it was listened to with great regularity...especially during my college years.

Honesty is the key word most would use to describe Dave.  A word commonly accompanied with another: Brutal.  His lyrics are in your face, pretty much every time.  He doesn't write love songs...he writes songs of judgment.  Consider the title to the first album I purchased (Pedro's 2nd EP: 1998) of his work: The Only Reason I Feel Secure (is that I am validated by my peers).  It is sarcastic and is in itself a judgment on those who put faith in friends instead of he points toward as the proper source of worth.  (Evidenced by his really great version of Be Thou My Vision on this record.)  I know that this sounds absolutely blasphemous in a post-modern/Seattle worldview, but his this sort of judicial honesty has always set him apart. Whether it is Dave learning a lesson from Dad in Big Trucks (1998), or his critique of the American dream with the concept album Winners Never Quit (2000), his early critiques of secular culture...his later critiques of the Christian culture and his most recent critique of God himself. 

Something I love about Dave is his radar for theological content.  It is crawling all over his music, manifesting itself in most songs and certainly a defining element to his most recent (and best, in my opinion) release Curse Your Branches.  With his Dad a career worship pastor, Dave seems incapable of getting around God in his work.  And this has led to some frustration, in his latest album Dave shares his frustration with the Genesis account, with God's response to Job, with hell as a scare tactic etc.  And while many people call this record Dave's "Break up with God."  I call it frustration and dissallusionment.  Coupled with his frustration of God Dave talks about his drinking as a way to forget God in the final track (In Stitches) of the album... he also poetically states, "I might as well admit it, like I even have a choice.  The crew have killed the captain, but they still can hear his voice."  Sad, for sure, but also compelling, this album has caused more discussion then any other other then I can think of...which in many ways means it is good art, as it moves people.

As a producer, Dave has kept things simple and straight.  Known for his metronome-like sense of time, Dave (who played drums as a youth, in marching band etc.) always makes sure that his drum parts are solid...which I love.  One of the best drum parts is heard here on  Magazine ( drums ever!!!), or this live version of Magazine.  He is also known for his deathly slow, but steady tunes like
the title track to Winner's Never Quit.  His recent album is worth mentioning here for sure...while it has the darkest content of all the albums (hmm...maybe Winners Never quit is darker...), the music itself is surprisingly full of major chords, pedal steel guitars, rock solos and rich harmony.  Dave doesn't pack his songs with instrumentation unless it adds, I love this.  He makes good choices, melodically, rhythmically, and even managed (as I didn't think possible) to cover Radiohead's classic Let Down without blowing it!

Although he is local...Dave is respected widely in the world of music.  He was in Paste Magazine's top 100 living songwriter list.  And most in the Indie Rock genre know his name, and were probably influenced by what he has done.  He can be dark, which I don't always love, but if he puts something out...I buy it.  Thanks Dave!

For those fans of Dave's work, I happen to know that he is recording now for an album that should come out sometime in Spring of '11.  You can chip in to make it happen and get your name in the liner notes here.

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