David Bazan’s Strange Negotiations (Out May 24th, 2011) is a ten song crash course on getting conned. ‘Negotiations’ explores the emotions blindly caused by unethical behavior practiced by businesses and so-called professionals that abuse the working class. Bazan rummages through levels of anger, passively narrating the crime(s) committed by people. Who are these people? They’re in here, represented by songs and ready to bruise, but Bazan being the bigger man prefers that they remain nameless. Strange Negotiations is a masterful public stoning using words for weapons, with guitars, drums, and bass thrown in for the retaliation.
Album intro,Wolves at the Door, approaches the scene of the crime without slipping off the tip of tongue: they took your money / and they ate your kids / and they had their way / with your wife a lil bit / while you wept on the porch / with your head in your hands / cursing taxes and the government / cause you’re a goddamn fool.
Bazan’s band boils through dirge rockers like Level With Yourself and Future Past to a cautionary reminder about People, and how helpful, nice actions do not always guarantee the same treatment in return. i thought people-loving-people were the norm / because you were people loving people before the long dark storm / but now you’re selfish and mean / your eyes glued to a screen / and what titillates you is depraved and obscene
Unlike the personal confrontation and spiritual exploration of 2009’s predecessor. Curse Your Branches, Bazan confronts his subjects offering little respite, understanding or forgiveness for his targets; and for himself too. Eating Paper offers insights on hard work, and its physical worth at the end of this contradictory mess called life: john henry dies in a tunnel / hammer in his hand / steam drill lives on to make fools of every man
Strange Negotiations is a depressingly conflicted, angry yet strangely celebratory record that’s loaded with passive-aggressive anthems for the working class hero. Artistic revenge represents any sense of closure needed to move on at a casual, unforgiving pace. Beautifully spread out over 40 minutes, it climaxes with the title track. Bazan’s weathered lead vocal, defeated but not quitting yet, offers: you cut your leg off to save a buck or two / because you never consider the cost / you find the lowest prices everyday / but would you look at everything that we’ve lost… these strange negotiations / man they really are getting me down / strange negotiations / feel like a stranger in my home town
‘Negotiations’ is that rare achievement in revenge rock that has nothing to do with love gone wrong. This is a different kind of burn, but just as blue. It deals with professional / business relationships and the state of our crumbling capitalist system combined with the growing abuse of the working class. Songs so well written they could be about you, your family and friends, and each of our enemies.
Strange Negotiations offers little closure by its end note, leaving the road out up to the listener. Does Bazan take the listener to the criminal’s nest on the last song, Won’t Let Go?; or does he go home to the only person he can trust knowing he never wants to let go for fear of being wronged again?: when i touch down in texas / land in dallas/fort worth / i will call you up / and wake you from your sleep / i will not let go of you / who or what controls /the fates of men i cannot say / but i keep arriving safely home to you / and i humbly acknowledge / that i won’t always get my way / but darling death will have to pry my fingers loose / cause i will not let go of you
The record’s last 15 seconds steadily exits on a pulsating heart-beat-bass-line, no fade and done. After a dozen listens & more to come, I decided against my imaginary narcissistic wishes. My choke-hold grasp isn’t wide and strong enough to emit enough energy from all of the enemies I foolishly let in my house to begin with. Those people are true enemies, paragraph 1, they’re the ones bringing us down-and that’s who they are. If Bazan offers any sense of hope in closure with Strange Negotiations, it’s that we should hold the one we can trust tightly, and don’t let go.
NOTE: David Bazan took time to talk to Sock Monkey Sound last year, click here to listen to an archived podcast interview.