David Bazan: Strange Negotiations

It seems fitting that my first TWM post in ages is about David Bazan, the singer-songwriter from Seattle Washington who is known for his struggle with Christianity and Christian theology. His new album Strange Negotiations is his first “post-Christianity”—his previous album Curse These Branches chronicled his painful decision to leave his faith. Despite the move forward, Bazan music hasn’t lost any of the searching that I found so compelling in his previous work.

David Bazan’s voice reminds me of my first really bad break-up. It’s the perfect companion in a moment of desperate self-reflection. I first encountered Bazan as the lead singer of the now defunct indie-rock band Pedro the Lion. I spent my first year of real theological study hunched over my desk listening to their melancholy music. It was different than the Evangelical Christian music that had been the centre of my musical world thus far. Though, I actually heard about Pedro from other Christians. Pedro didn’t define itself as a Christian band, but their interest in theology made them acceptable to young Christians who are raised with a vague sense that non-Christian music is “bad”. Not only were they theologically acceptable, they had some musical talent amongst all of the pre-fab bands that tend to pass as popular music in Christian circles (I say that with love, I have seen the Newsboys in concert at least seven times). Pedro was one of my first tastes of music that made me feel something other than some predetermined emotional response to God. Music can facilitate whatever feelings I have—instead of telling me how I am supposed to feel.

Bazan’s new album Strange Negotiations hearkens back to the originally gritty edge of Pedro the Lion. Gone are the folksy sounds of Curse These Branches—in its stead are rough distorted guitars and simple powerful drums. The songs don’t completely leave theological themes behind. The song “Eating Paper” talks about the backlash he has received from the Christian community after his decision to leave religion. He asks, “why would you sweat my confession” claiming “you can see the fruit as it hangs on the tree”. In other words, he is happier since he left the Church and challenges those who question his decisions.

I am going to see Bazan play tonight at Lee’s Palace in Toronto. It will be an opportunity to see whether the strange affinity I feel with David Bazan is warranted or not. I have also struggled over the past number of years with my religious affiliations. At first I was frustrated by the political problems in the church where I grew-up; later I began to find certain ethical issues intolerable. I look forward to hearing Bazan’s story.

Cross posted at: www.lisagasson.wordpress.com

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