It's Hard to Find a Friend (Made in Mexico, 1998 and Jade Tree, 2001), Pedro the Lion's first full-length album, is characterized by mature lyrics, sparse but well-crafted music and an overall sound that rivals any Emo album on the market. It's the sort of album that makes a great impression the first listen and doesn't cease to make you marvel in any of the next four hundred listens. I'll try to put my finger on the brilliance of this project to explain why I recommend it to just about everyone.
Pedro the Lion is basically a one-man band fronted by David Bazan, a Christian who writes from a refreshing perspective of broken humility. The first EP he recorded was released by Tooth & Nail Records but since then he has signed with secular labels and tours mostly in secular venues. I see as many non-Christians as Christians at Pedro the Lion shows in my area. This is simply because Bazan is one of the finest craftsman in the Emo/Lo-Fi genre of Rock music. He's not merely the safe, Christian alternative to some popular secular act.
The instrumentation on It's Hard to Find a Friend is very clean. On every track I can pick out each instrument (typically electric guitar, bass and drums) and follow along with it. The sparse music isn't necessarily slow, some songs have a noticeable punk influence, but it seems as if each chord, each stroke was thought through. Instead of bombarding listeners it provides the right amount of music, a true accompaniment to the lyrics.
After this album, Bazan begins to start writing thematic albums, but It's Hard to Find a Friend is about a variety of topics. "The Longer I Lay Here" is a confession of slothful ambivalence: "I would like to be you just for a few habit-forming years / laziness cuts me like fine cutlery / I need a miracle - someone to help me help myself." "Big Trucks," which may be Pedro the Lion's most popular tune, narrates a father teaching his son about patience and forgiveness with highway analogies. "Bad Diary Days" documents love going sour and "When They Really Get to Know You They Will Run" discusses the futility of our looks-oriented culture.
Sacred topics are also prominent on the album. "Of Minor Prophets and their Prostitute Wives" is a lyrical exploration of the first few chapters of Hosea. "I treated you as if you were a princess / you treated me like a cop / I gave you boundaries to save you from certain death / dangling from the end of a rope ... but you're still playing for a love you'll never find / outside these arms of mine / the whole town is one step behind you / with the hangman on call / they've got the judge and you're convicted without a plea / darling, they will listen to me." Similarly, "The Well" is a short account of John 4.
"Secret of the Easy Yoke" is a song about wrestling with faith and the Church. The refrain reveals a simple plea, "could someone please tell me the story of sinners ransomed from the fall? I still have never seen you, and some days I don't love you at all." The song fades out with Bazan softly singing "Peace, be still," the words Jesus used to calm the raging seas. The last song, "Promise," ends the album with a short, fast-moving confession of faith. "From what I've seen so far / I can't believe my eyes / and what a nice surprise / if I look up and the sky's not there / is there any reason that I should be scared? / But a promise, is a promise, I know."
It's Hard to Find a Friend unashamedly tackles relevant topics most Christian musicians would prefer avoiding. Bazan's honest portrayals of faith and life make this album a must-have for Christians and seekers alike.