David Bazan says the Great Recession and the Great Bailout were weighing on his mind when he wrote the lyrics to his new album, Strange Negotiations. "'Wolves at Your Door' is directly about that," says the 35-year-old indie-rock singer, guitarist and songwriter from Seattle. The lyrics tell a story of a man who lets wolves into his house. The condition? They must prepare him a feast.
It's a political allegory, with the wolves playing the part of big-money political interest groups. The outcome is what you might expect. "Surprise! They took your money and ate your kids," sings Bazan in the second verse. "And they had their way with your wife a little bit, while you sat on the porch with your head in your hands cursing taxes and the government." It's all set to an earnest guitar riff that evokes an urgent, somber feeling.
"I spent a lot of time thinking about why people seem to be voting against their self-interests," says Bazan. He has wrestled with political and religious themes since he formed the indie-rock band Pedro the Lion in 1995. But his musings have always been tempered with humility.
Since Bazan left Pedro the Lion to pursue a solo career in 2005, his songs have confronted his personal flaws as much as they've judged others. "Bless This Mess" is a brooding rock song off his 2009 album, Curse Your Branches, that acknowledges Bazan's struggles with alcohol.
When it comes to politics, he says, "I'm always asking myself why I'm right and so many other people are wrong." That's the question he poses on the title track of his new album. "Strange Negotiations" confronts the excesses of the baby boom generation over six minutes of cathartic and sometimes sad music.
"You blew all your inheritance, and now you're trying to pin the blame on me," sings Bazan. Then he reconsiders his judgment: "I could write you off so easily, except a hundred million other people agree."