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Album review: David Bazan's 'Curse Your Branches'

August 31, 2009 |  6:43 pm

Bazan On the first full-length he's released under his name, David Bazan describes his recent struggles with faith and addiction in language that makes it clear how far he's traveled since dissolving Pedro the Lion in 2005.

Bazan built an intensely devoted following inside the Christian community during his decade-long run with Pedro, asking tough questions of religion from the perspective of a thoughtful believer. Here, though, the doubt that Bazan has always scratched at takes a firmer, more certain form: "I clung to miracles I have not seen," he admits in "Bearing Witness," "From ancient autographs I cannot read."

The past tense there is crucial: "Curse Your Branches" documents Bazan's coming to terms with his newfound agnosticism, a change of heart he credits in "When We Fell" to his inability to accept "the threat of hell hanging over my head like a halo." ("In what medieval kingdom does justice work this way?" he wonders later in that song.)

Despite its undercurrent of outrage, "Branches" -- which expands Pedro's folksy sound with creamy keyboards, processed drum beats and the occasional spritz of glam-rock guitar -- is no shorter on moral compassion than the older material that earned Bazan a home at Cornerstone, the annual Christian music festival that he played this summer for the first time since 2005, when he was asked to leave after showing up drunk for a performance.

Perhaps that's because Bazan, who plays the Troubadour Oct. 4, still views his work as evangelical in nature: "I discovered hell to be the poison in the well," he sings in "Bless This Mess," "So I tried to warn the others of the curse."

--Mikael Wood

David Bazan 
"Curse Your Branches" 
Three and a half stars