The artwork on David Bazan’s EP Fewer Moving Parts depicts Bazan-as-lumberjack, walking through the woods. He approaches a tree, and in the span of six pages he chops it down. Upon closer inspection, there is a little heart visible on a close-up of the tree, with the initials DB and TW inside of it. It doesn’t take a detective’s training to deduce what is going on here, and I quickly surmise that the DB is Bazan himself, and that the TW is TW Walsh, friend and former conspirator in Pedro the Lion. Without Googling a word I realize that Bazan has created a breakup album, and that the breakup is between him and his old band (which was pretty much just him anyways), and that his new sound is going to be totally unprecedented. Though I feel pretty confident about my assertion and even begin writing this review, I decide to give the album a listen, which is a pretty advanced protocol as far as usounds is concerned. The results of my investigation will horrify you.
Cold Beer and Cigarettes [mp3]
No, they won’t. Fewer Moving Parts is hardly a step in a new direction for Bazan, but instead, a series of confident steps, a few powerful strides, and more than a couple awkward stumbles. Things start off strong with “Selling Advertising”, a catchy little ditty that follows the guidelines of mostly all good Pedro the Lion songs: preachy lyrics, great melody, and rock solid songwriting. The second track follows suit, delivering one of Bazan’s most terrific hooks and wrapping everything up in a neat 3 minute package. Like track one, this one could just as easily find a home on Control as it does here. Things are off to a respectable, albeit familiar start, but things are about to get worse.
Much, much worse.
It is tough to decide which was the more abysmal decision on Bazan’s part: the song “Backwoods Nation”, or including the acoustic versions of the five songs on the EP. “Backwoods Nation” doesn’t necessarily crash and burn musically, but the lyrics are nothing short of tragic. For example, the line: “Calling all fratboys to trade in their hazing/ their keggers and cocaine and casual date raping/ for cabinet appointments and rose garden tapings”. Also, one of the lyrics is “camelfuckers”. This is not a word you want to hear in the context of an indie rock song. Ever. As far as the acoustic tracks, the flow of the EP suffers critically because of it. For one, the songs are slower and worse than their counterparts, and for two, the songs are slower and worse in general. They simply should not be included on this disc.
If judged by the weakest points, David Bazan’s first solo release is a train full of zoo animals crashing into a schoolhouse. I swear to God, if I ever use the term “camelfucker” out loud someone should put me to sleep (even if the context is in explanation of Bazan’s new album). But while the nadir may dip down a little deeper than with any of Bazan’s previous work, his craft is still good, and the result is at least a couple iPod-worthy tracks. As if it were even up for debate, Fewer Moving Parts confirms that Bazan’s direction is mopey pop songs, strong melody, and memorable soundbytes.
Oh, and he’s still religious.