Artist: Pedro the Lion
Album: Achilles' heel
Label: Jade Tree
Review by: Phil Nichols
In Greek mythology, an Achilles' heel is symbolic of weakness in an otherwise strong character. And while Pedro the Lion mastermind, David Bazan, has proven in the past to be a strong character, his latest offering, Achilles' heel, is by no means a weakness. On the contrary, Bazan has arguably created his finest effort to date.
There has been much controversy over the direction that Pedro the Lion has gone throughout its eight-year musical journey. Kids who long ago picked up a copy of Pedro's Whole EP and enjoyed the worshipful tone of songs like "Lullaby" found themselves facing a different Pedro the Lion when they gave a listen to Dave's previous album, Control. Many Pedro fans were shocked with its heavy-handedness, profanity, and frank subject matter. But few people could deny the talent, creativity, and originality that David Bazan possessed to consistently put out such thought provoking records, each one better than the last.
And that is exactly what you can expect from Achilles' heel: talent, creativity, originality, and an album that surpasses all previous Pedro records. However, Achilles' heel is also different than the past few releases. Control and Winners Never Quit were both concept albums in that the songs collectively fit together to tell a story and were written much more deliberately. With Achilles' heel, Bazan found himself "making up words and letting the songs dictate where they wanted to go." The result is a record that is less heavy-handed and more fun to listen to.
But it's not all fun and games, Dave is sure to lose more fans with this album, and gain new ones. There are plenty of controversial lyrics scattered throughout this disc, some of which have already caused much debate in Christian circles. There are no euphemisms here, just the honest tell-it-like-it-is lyrics that we have come to expect from Pedro the Lion, and to be honest, fans that have stuck with Pedro this far, will probably not take much offense to Achilles' heel as they already dealt with the uproar surrounding Control's release.
Musically, Pedro the Lion is at its best. There are more complex vocal parts present on Achilles' heel, backed up by the traditional mix of guitars, bass, drums, and synths. There are also some great hooks and strong melodies on this album that will stay with you long after the album finishes playing and bring you back for many more listens. All eleven songs are strong, and not one comes off as a filler track or cliché. The only noticeable flaw of Achilles' heel, is that all of the songs are not as diverse as they could be, even though they are each good in their own right.
Overall, Achilles' heel is the finest Pedro the Lion offering so far, and one of the better albums of the year. We can only hope that David Bazan will continue to create such powerful and innovative records in the future. If his last disc offended you, you will probably want to save yourself the disappointment and just avoid this one altogether. But if you are fan of past Pedro the Lion records do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Achilles' heel.