David Bazan has gone and stuck himself in sort of a difficult space. While he writes lyrics that concern faith and the many intricacies of it, he often times gets dismissed by the casual indie-rock crowd as simply being another Christian act (which for some people is the kiss of doom). On the other side of the coin, his openly questioning lyrics and rather unconventional attitude are a little too much for people looking for actual uplifting spiritual music. Heck, his last album Winners Never Quit explored subjects such as corruption and murder in equal time. Control finds him back in said form, again raising doubt and questions and generally being the kind of person that most stodgy churches would label a heathen.
Whereas his last release showed a couple signs of rocking out, Control is almost completely full-on. There aren't any acoustic guitars to be found, and in a play on the title, feelings and emotions are anything but controlled, while sort of a picture of normality is the one that's projected. "Options" opens the disc with a mid-tempo meditation in which Bazan projects a hallmark-card like scene of a couple walking in the surf, all the while one is making a temporary committment (basically until something better comes along). If you've ever been in a relationship that you know is doomed to fail, but stayed in it anyway out of apathy, it's easy to identify.
Subjects don't get much less simple from there out, as "Rapture" juxtaposes religious themes to infidelity over blistering guitars and buzzing synths while "Penetration" (as suggested by the title) likens corporate sales patterns and marketing to relationships in a mechanical way that drains all the humanity from it. Although it's a bit heavy-handed in places lyrically, the real gem of the album arrives in the form of "Indian Summer." Set to some of the most catchy, almost pop music on the album (bouncy synth lines and guitars), the track tackles everything from the drone of life working for a large corporation to the output of said corporation taking a toll on the environment. All of the biting lyrics are wrapped up in sing-along package that turn it into something nicely subversive.
Although it gets bogged down in a couple places, the album keeps a fairly brisk pace by never allowing anything to ramble on for too long. The 10 tracks on the disc run just over 40 minutes, and there are little bits of punch here and there to keep things from feeling too samey. The excellent percussion on "Magazine" helps to punch things up after the somewhat slow "Progress," while "Rehearsel" and "Second Best" turn up the guitars even more, resulting in two of the heaviest tracks that the group has ever done. Overall, it's another solid outing for Bazan, and while it may turn off some people who were fans of his earlier, acoustic work, it also shows that he has the chops to do a full-fledged rock album.