Noone writes a morality play like David Bazan. Pedro the Lion’s first release, Whole, told of one man’s struggle with drug addiction before finally finding God’s grace, all in 6 songs. It’s Hard to Find a Friend had “Big Trucks,” one of the catchiest dissertations on the Golden Rule. The Only Reason I Feel Secure had “Letter From A Concerned Follower,” which looked at the battle between postmodernism and faith. And then there was Winners Never Quit, which told of a “good” man’s fall into self-righteousness and corruption. And with Progress, we find that Bazan still doesn’t break his stride when it comes to writing moral tales posing as songs.
With only 4 songs, this may be filed under “For Completists Only,” but that doesn’t mean this is throwaway material. Bazan has that rare gift for creating images in his songs that really jump out at you. “June 18, 1976” starts off obstensibly about a scared mother committing suicide after the birth of her child. However, by its end, it’s transformed into a commentary on our society’s fascination with other people’s tragedies, a point that Bazan makes with lyrics like “Skin and tragedy always attract a crowd.”
The EP’s shining moment, however, is “April 6, 2039.” It tells of a bright and sterile future where, in spite of technology like dust-free dining sets and self-making beds, a family can still be dysfunctional. Against an acoustic guitar and electronic drumbeats, Bazan points out “For though it is impossible to cure/A husband bent on cheating/The oxygen depleting/A child who’s always bragging/A wife’s persistent nagging/We’re equipped to live as it were.”
The final two tracks are live performances of previously-released tracks, and as one might expect, they’re flawless. Although I’m not sure the EP was quite worth the $10 or so that I paid for it, there’s still plenty of meat to it. However, if you’ve heard all of the hype about this group, and are wondering where to start, this isn’t the place. If anything, you’ll probably be left wanting more than what you’ll get. Progress does have its moments, but it’s not a full-length. It contains Bazan’s trademark lyrical prowess and depth, but it’s still less engaging than his previous works. For that, check out It’s Hard to Find a Friend or The Only Reason I Feel Secure. And when you’re done with those, than come back to Progress.