'There are probably quite a few people out there who wish David Bazan would just wave away his inner conflicts and write some hooky, uncomplicated songs. He's clearly got a knack for anthemic melodies and gritty, beautiful guitar riffs—even the most slowed-down and pained, lyric-centric tracks on Strange Negotiations are relatively concise. But Bazan's taken plenty of heat for his words, singing almost exclusively about his criticism of his own faith, of music reviewers and society at large. Strange Negotiations is, in some ways, a continuation of that first diatribe, but Bazan's not singing about losing his faith in God this time—he's singing about losing his faith in people.
The album's first track, "Wolves at the Door," is probably the most fun, acerbic song on the album. Bazan sings about corporate exploitation of the middle class: "They took your money and your two kids/And had their way with your wife again/While you wept on the porch with your head in your hands, cursing taxes and the government." And in "People," he sings, "But now you're selfish and mean/Your eyes glued to a screen." But Bazan is self-critical too—he recognizes the struggle in trying to reconcile his confrontational views with daily life and love. Much of this has to do with Bazan's relationship with his wife and child, and the decision whether or not to raise his daughter religiously.
Strange Negotiations' complexity and confrontation works because it's framed in satisfying, solid rock and roll. The album itself would be a strange negotiation between form and content if this weren't true. It's a balance Bazan has struck for quite a while now, and he's showing no signs of stopping, or of ignoring those inner conflicts.