Strange Negotiations – David Bazan

Dear economy, you’re bumming David Bazan out.

On his latest album Strange Negotiations, Bazan turns his gaze away from God and reserves all his spite for those playing God – the fat cats behind the financial crisis.

The tension prevails on songs like “Wolves At The Door” where on pins and needles guitar work is paired with lyrics expressing the follies of trusting the wrong people; letting the rapacious “wolves” in only to see them ruin everything. Compared to previous efforts, Bazan is much more direct with his lyricism. When targeting his anger, words come across as blunt like the butt of a rifle to the back of the head rather than precise sniper shots. He still gets his points across effectively, but in comparison to his work on Curse Your Branches or some Pedro the Lion albums there’s not the same elegance behind it.

The pacing suffers a bit on Strange Negotiations, as the album drags a bit in the middle despite some fine rhythm guitar work. However, the record ends strongly with “Strange Negotiations” and “Won’t Let Go.”

The former most explicitly addressing the economic downturn, railing against the privileged inheritors and the way they’re putting the screws to the lower classes. While Bazan is better than a heavy-handed line like, “You cut your leg off to save a buck or two, because you never consider the cost,” but the unnerving moans of slide guitar feedback placed against Bazan’s acoustic strumming make up for it by giving the track a properly disquieting tone.

The latter, which focuses on an astronaut’s distance and devotion from their beloved, evokes Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” as filtered through Bazan’s signature somberness. The repetitive chorus of “I will not let go” carries a sorrowful and powerful weight that only increases with each utterance.

Sporting a gut punch ending like that, Strange Negotiations certainly isn’t the feel-good record of the year. But in these foreboding times sometimes solace can be found in darkest clouds.

Review Score: 7.3

*Expanded from a review in The Pacific Northwest Inlander*

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