CD Reviews

PEDRO THE LION

Control

(Jade Tree)

Praise the Lord and pass the Pedro.

Reviewers with no real grasp of metaphysics go all slack-jawed when they learn that Dave Bazan (a.k.a. Pedro the Lion) doesn't dress in a white shirt and black necktie and walk door-to-door passing out tracts; in their stereotyped discomfort, they revert to trad-rockist, he's-an-emo-dude analysis, never mind the Christianity. (They also claim that U2's October was mere youthful dalliance and not the most overtly faith-based mainstream rock record of the past quarter-century.) But whether dueling the darkness via the stripped-down, Nick Drake-ian approach of prior Pedro outings, or newly employing Casey Foubert on bass and keyboards to help him carve grand, oceanic reservoirs of sound, Bazan isn't a study in the tortured artist effect. On Control, from the throbbing, anthemic "Rapture" (illicit sex's orgasmic bliss vs. Jesus' call to bliss) to the arpeggiated guitar thrall of "Penetration" (idealism gets trumped by commerce) to the chiming turbulence of "Magazine" (a hypocrite engages a "holy quest to be above reproach"), Bazan meditates restlessly but fluently upon the contradictions that both damn us and make us human. It's no coincidence that the last cut is titled "Rejoice." Over an arrangement that blossoms from minimalist guitar and snare into an atmospheric, hymnal keyboard/vocal chorale, Bazan sings with understated glee, "Wouldn't it be so wonderful/If everything were meaningless/But everything is so meaningful/And most everything turns to shit/Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice. . . . " Recall: Religious services all conclude with putting aside daily travails and rejoicing in one's faith. It's also no coincidence that Bazan adopted the three-word moniker Pedro the Lion. Simple, really: PTL. Fred Mills

Pedro the Lion play the Showbox at 6 p.m. Sat., May 25. $10 adv. / $12. All ages.

CROOKED FINGERS

Reservoir Songs

(Merge)

Crooked covers, crooked ways.

As the main force behind Archers of Loaf, Eric Bachmann wrote some of the most pissed-off indie rock of the '90s. Along with guitarist Eric Johnson, Bachmann barreled through anthems of rage, lunacy, and noise, perfectly pounding the gut of the emotion and often eclipsing contemporaries like Pavement, Superchunk, and Dinosaur Jr. along the way. Recasting himself as a more laid-back tunesmith with Crooked Fingers, Bachmann's got a new set of contemporaries these days, and he's replaced the anger with a mature melancholy. With this EP of cover tunes, Bachmann continues to pass his peers and nails the hurt like a master carpenter. His take on "Sunday Morning Coming Down" is right in line with what others (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, the Handsome Family) have brought to the Kris Kristofferson ode to hangovers and regret. But with "When U Were Mine," Bachmann and his band find a way to expose the kind of pained memories that Prince and Cyndi Lauper only danced around. The pull of Eunice Kang's cello serves as the song's backbone, but it's Bachmann's soft vocal rumble and slow pacing that really delivers the darkness of the lyrics. lyrics. A version of "Under Pressure," while not wildly divergent from the Bowie/Queen blockbuster, evokes a quiet, renewed anxiety. Last year in Seattle, just days after Sept. 11, the song capped Crooked Fingers' Crocodile set and left the audience floored. Anyone bent on remembering will likely feel the same at the end of this effort. Laura Learmonth

Crooked Fingers play two shows at the Crocodile Cafe on Sun., May 26 at 5 p.m. (all ages) and 8 p.m. $10 adv. / $12.

THE HELLACOPTERS

High Visibility

(Gearhead)

No fancy clothes or dance moves, just plain rawk from these Swedish grease monkeys.

Unlike fellow svensk howlers (and post-Strokes bon vivants) the Hives, Stockholm's Hellacopters don't need no steenkin' zoot suits or choreography to make an impact. Hell, if you passed these mooks on the street, you'd figure 'em for ratty-haired grease monkeys headed downtown to a Blackfoot gig. No, the 'copters' coinage lies in the sonic imperative, as passed down by the mystics, of: We rawk, therefore we are. Now on Gearhead following a stint with Sub Pop, the band's latest—originally issued overseas in 2000—is a steamy cauldron of name-that-influence fun: Blue Oyster Cult's metallicized ur-punk boogie for "Baby Borderline," swaggering Skynyrd redneck soul for "Toys and Flavors," serpentine Radio Birdman psychedelic surf for "No Song Unheard," the Stooges' "Gimme Danger"-style acoustic glam for "No One's Gonna Do It for You," Chuck Berry by way of MC5 for "I Wanna Touch." High-velocity gunshot riffs, Stones-worthy pounding ivories, and efficient deployment of psychy effects all up the ante, along with the listener's pulse, and unbelievably, no song sounds like a rewrite of another. Or, despite the previous sentence's list of icons, a direct rip-off of anybody, past or present. It's that born-to-be-wild vibe, baby: You either feel it, or you don't. Fred Mills

 
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