To put it short, Dave Bazan is one of my all-time favourite song writers. He has a unique ability to craft engaging stories, over the span of a three minute song.
My love for Bazan, and his storytelling ways, really jumped off with the Pedro The Lion classic, Control. I had heard Pedro a number of years before that album came out, and remembered enjoying it. When I put Control on for the first time though, I was introduced to a much more robust sound.
From then on, I wanted to consume as much work from Bazan as possible.
Over the years, that's proven to be a large volume of work. The guy doesn't stop making music. in fact, Phoenix from Pedro The Lion, was one of my favourite releases of 2019.
That brings us up to this point in time. Lo Tom is a project Bazan has had for a number of years, but it's not just another 'Dave Bazan project'. In fact, this band is somewhat of an indie rock super group. Joining Bazan are TW Walsh (also of Pedro), and Trey Many & Jason Martin (both of Starflyer 59).
I'm not the biggest Starflyer 59 fan, I've tried many times over the years to get into them but it just doesn't click for me. The inclusion of Many and Martin, in this band, is incredible though. You can definitely hear the shoegaze influence they bring to the more straightforward, grimy sound of Bazan and Walsh.
LP2 is full of chunky guitar riffs, paying homage to classic rock bands of yesteryear, while keeping their sound moving forward. The ethereal guitars on songs like the opener Start Payin' and Outta Here, give the album a completely different tone than your typical Bazan release. And it compliments it perfectly.
Lyrically this album seems to be Bazan writing songs about his present. The aforementioned opener Start Payin' seems to be dealing with the reality of growing older and what comes with that, when he sings, 'I let myself get pretty low/Just livin', just playin'/Might be time to figure out what I owe/Start payin''.
He even gets a little Dylan-esque in his vocal delivery on Suck It Up, when he sings the last line of the chorus. Bazan is typically a straight forward, if not altogether uninspired, vocalist as he delivers his relaxed melodies, so this pivot in delivery offers a nice, albeit brief, change.
As mentioned before, the song Outta Here is probably the highlight of the record, for me. It's the most wide open guitar sound I've heard on a Bazan recording. It's the payoff of having shoegazing legend Jason Martin in the band. Bazan reflects many of our emotions in this weird world we are living in, when he sings, 'Please, get me outta here/All of a sudden I don't feel so good/Oh please, get me outta here/I don't wanna do this anymore'. In all likelihood he's probably singing about his recent divorce, but it's hard not to attach to that chorus - looking for an escape from current circumstances.
No Margin For Error is a classic lyrical journey for Bazan. it's hard to pick some favourite lines in this meandering song, but there are some very poignant lines nonetheless, 'I couldn't find any windows/I had a couple of drinks/Less for the flavor/More for the pain relief'.
That one hits like a punch to the gut. Or, 'Might take a life preserver/Might take prescription drugs/Might make it out of this alive/Might never catch up'. He's not wasting any words, he's drowning in self pity, and desperation. Aren't we all?
The final three songs on the record tell a story. Whether it's Bazan or not, it's the story of a performer who is on their last legs, but they've got to keep putting on a show. It's all they've got. It's all they know.
On The Show Bazan sings, 'If I lay down now/I'll never get up/the show must go on/If I want to break even, heaven forbid/the show must go on'. It's hard not to feel his exhaustion here.
On Don't Look at Me he tells the story of a singer losing his mind up on stage, in front of a crowd: 'But something was wrong up on stage/He started coming apart at the seams' on the chorus the singer exclaims 'Don't look at me/Stop looking at me please/I wanna jam/I wanna sing/Please please please/don't look at me'.
The final song In A Van gives you the impression that maybe the protagonist in the final three songs is Bazan. He refuses to give up on his love and passion, regardless of the cost. It's all he has. Whether he's wearing his sins on his sleeve, or heartbreak pours from his words - Bazan isn't going anywhere, for better or for worse.
As a fan of his, the final sentiment on this album is a double edge sword. On one side, he's telling us that he will continue making music as long as he is able. On the other hand, the sacrifices are killing him. It's comforting knowing his songs will continue, but it's also hard hearing the pain in his stories, and the ache in his voice. For now, he'll keep on singing.
For more new music, check out our review of the latest record from Into It. Over It.