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Plaintive Pedro

Pedro The Lion
Winners Never Quit
(Jade Tree)

Over the course of a very short period of time, Pedro the Lion has risen through the ranks of indie rock and landed right on one of the most well-respected labels in the business. After an EP and a full-length release with Made In Mexico recordings, the honest, straightforward singing and songwriting of David Bazan has grabbed the attention of more than just the Christian rock sector that he's sometimes lumped in with.

Truth be told, although Bazan has been labeled a Christian rock artist, his songs don't actually make too many more references to God than a lot of artists who don't fall under such a label. Not only that, but he definitely doesn't go the usual route in expressing his convictions. While it comes through in several songs and in a theme of redemption as a whole, Winners Never Quit is a strange concept album of sorts. It follows a politician who rises, then falls into corruption, even committing murder before his eventual redemption. It's a strange route to take (and quite a lot to try to fit into 8 songs and 35 minutes of music).

Not only did Bazan write all the lyrics on the album, but he holed himself up in a studio and put together all the music himself as well. The production is fairly lo-fi on some tracks that encorporate only acoustic guitar and vocals, but when this technique is used, it usually actually works quite well given the lyrical content of the songs. The album starts out this very way with the jangling guitar on "Slow And Steady Wins The Race." After picking up a little on "Simple Economics," the album goes completely languid on "To Protect The Family Name." Thematically, it's the first real turn that the album makes, as the main character of the concept spirals downward into drunken-ness and pleads for the police to not haul him in.

Strangely, the two most driving songs on the album are the ones that are probably darkest in terms of lyrics. On "A Mind Of Her Own," the character begins his abusive ways before the act of homicide on "Never Leave a Job Half Done." The latter track ends in an almost boppy-pop mode. The album ends with 3 slower numbers, including the very excellent simple acoustic guitar backing of "Bad Things To Good People." Overall, if you like singer/songwriter work, this is another great album by Pedro The Lion. It will be interesting to see whether the emo fans that the Jade Tree label usually appeals to will eat it up, but it will also no doubt gain the group (or David Bazan) some new fans.

Rating: 7.25