PEDRO THE LION Winners Never Quit (Jade Tree)

Pedro The Lion appears to be the trading name of American David Bazan, who, on the evidence of "Winners Never Quit", could stake a rightful claim to being rock's Raymond Carver. There's something ever-expanding about his sparse lyrics, a sense that the important information lies somewhere in the spaces between the lines, rather than the words themselves. There's also a touch of the David Ackles about him, capturing the same feeling that singer evokes of listening to one side of a conversation. Bazan brings his formidable verbal acuity to bear on something that, although I'm loathe to tar as a concept album, definitely seems to tie running order, lyrics and cover art together to create something more than just a sequence of songs.

As I hear it, "Winners Never Quit" is a fable about two brothers, one an imprisoned alcoholic, the other a corrupt political candidate moved to murder and suicide. The moral precedes the lyrics on the album's insert: "A good person is some one who hasn't been caught." The whole tale appears to be soaked with biblical allegory, although it would take someone far more familiar with the good book than myself to fathom all of it out.

Unfortunately what lets "Winners Never Quit" down is the music, which only remains as fascinating and memorable as the lyrics for the opening two chapters, the doomy portent "Slow And Steady Wins The Race" and the edge-of-euphoria rush of "Simple Economics". The remainder seems to clunk when it should soar, blunt rather than deft, sounding a bit like Red House Painters at their least user-friendly. Still, judged by any other criteria, "Winners Never Quit" is an impressive achievement.