Pedro The Lion – ‘Phoenix’

By Andy Joice

An album should be a journey. There should be a definitive starting point, with a story unfolding before culminating in a closing track that, once finished, should leave a delicious craving to relisten. And that’s exactly what Pedro The Lion’s ‘Phoenix’ is.

It’s been 15 years since the last Pedro The Lion record. After the recording of their last album ‘Control’, singer songwriter extraordinaire David Bazan gave up his natural process of writing and playing all instruments for a more traditional, collaborative writing process. With Bazan struggling to create anything sustainable as a collective, he decided to stop doing Pedro The Lion and go solo.

For over a decade, he would push himself by releasing solo albums and touring throughout the US by himself. By the middle of 2016, it had taken its toll on Bazan. Rock bottom and in need of familiarity, he found himself with a day off in Phoenix, his home town. After spending the night with his grandparents, he took a quick detour on route to San Diego to see the family house he grew up in and found the breakthrough he needed, both personally and musically.

Conscious that he had abandoned his ‘natural way of working’, Bazan booked rehearsal space, mic’d up the instruments and relaxed into his original process; “it immediately felt like home. Before long, I realised it also felt like Pedro The Lion.”

Opening with ‘Yellow Bike’, Bazan reflects upon a Christmas present he received, and the freedom it allowed. Flash forwards and he’s traded in the bike for a tour van. It’s pensive and nostalgia inducing but it brings a sentimentality, with the hook being ‘a kingdom for someone to ride with’.

Self-reflection is a key element to not only ‘Phoenix’ but Pedro The Lion in general. While ‘Quietest Friend’ looks at bettering yourself for the sake of others, ‘Clean Up’ takes that same message of bettering yourself for your own sake.

Bazan is able to make even the most mundane sounds achingly tender – take ‘Circle K’, for example. Looking back at when he saved to buy a Santa Cruz skateboard but spent all at Circle K on general crap, it may not be enough to make you tear up but it’s not far away from that. A master storyteller, ‘Black Canyon’ acts as an honorary sequel to Control’s ‘Priests and Paramedics’. Relaying his macabre story from multiple perspectives, it’s clear that over the 15 year hiatus, Bazan hasn’t lost his touch with writing succinct, emotive lyrics.

As a whole, ‘Phoenix’ is an introspective look at progression, life and self-care buoyed by positivity and hopefulness yet maintaining a grittier, darker view. It’s a new start from the place you know best. So while the obvious metaphor is rebirth, to Bazan ‘Phoenix’ is much more important than that. It’s home.

ANDY JOICE

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