After I got back from Cornerstone, where I got the new Pedro the Lion album, I read the following quote by Clark H. Pinnock: “I know what it is to doubt and question. And I suspect that every Christian who takes the time to think seriously about his faith, does so too.” This quote would go along quite well with the music and message of Pedro the Lion.
One word could sum up Pedro the Lion’s music: humility. The music is shy and tentative. There is no feedback or distortion, and certainly no flashy solos. Just good, solid, and clear songwriting that gets the point across. Every once in awhile there’s some outburst, but it’s all carefully done with restraint and poise. Pedro the Lion have mastered the art of understatement a la bands like Bedhead, providing the perfect base for David Bazan’s lyrics — it’s in the lyrics that the true beauty of Pedro the Lion lies.
Very rarely have I come across a songwriter that so clearly and evocatively spells out what I have felt so many times. All of the songs on It’s Hard to Find a Friend are written from the viewpoint of a broken man, someone who knows his life is in serious need of fixing. But instead of angst and senseless anger, Bazan presents his stories with powerful understatement and beautiful metaphor. In other words, these songs sometimes read like the prayers we say in darkened rooms, when noone else is listening and noone else seems to care.
Every song reads like a moral play in some way. There are no frivolous tunes, and even the seemingly generic “boy moans over a girl” songs are written with tact and maturity that makes it all the more human and real. The album reaches its climax on “Secret of the Easy Yoke.”
Bazan sings of the complacency and lack of faith that he sees in the contemporary Church. It is here that the quote by Pinnock is most fitting. Bazan realizes his lack of faith, his doubt in the face of “perfect fire” of the churchgoers around him. He does not ignore it, unlike the Christians around him whose lives have turned into nothing more than ritual and routine.
If all that’s left is duty, I’m falling on my sword
At least, then, I would not serve an unseen, distant Lord
Could someone please tell me the story of sinners ransomed from the fall?
I still have never seen You and some days, I don’t love You at all
If this is only a test, I hope that I’m passing, ’cause I’m losing steam
But I still want to trust you…”
When matched with the simple, heartrending melody and sparse instrumentation, those lyrics take on even greater weight. This song and the next two actually form a trilogy of sorts, as Bazan searches for faith and hope in the midst of complacency. On “The Well,” Bazan finds hope through the eyes of the woman at the well:
When He spoke, she wanted to believe the things He said
But who could this man be that she might never thirst again?
Her heart raced
Could He be the One we’ve waited for?
The One we’ve waited for?
The final song, “Promise” contains a shred of hope amidst the doubt (“If I look up and the sky’s not there/Is there any reason that I should be scared/When the promise is a promise I know?”). Pedro the Lion is something special, a band that realizes that struggles and doubts are not bad, but merely tests to firm the resolve and harden faith. But even more, they have that rare ability to frame what I’ve felt so many times in words that I could never have expressed. And to me, that makes them truly precious.