Almost 8 years ago now, I found myself in Chicago with friends at a show at the Fireside Bowl. In my particular case, it was a show that I was going to because a friend wanted to see another band playing, and I was pretty much obliging and thinking that it would be good for me to try to be social for once. As I was sitting and talking with some people, I heard singing above the conversation that really captured my ear and I excused myself and went and watched one Mr. David Bazan and others as Pedro The Lion. Since that time, I admit to not having been the biggest fan of the group but at the very least a curious follower.
Although my favorite release by the group is still probably The Only Reason I Feel Secure, I have to admit that Pedro The Lion had hit a pretty good stride with their last two releases of Winners Never Quit and Control. Although musically and thematically quite different, each one worked well within a concept and were full of solid tracks. Having listened to Achilles Heel many a time now, I'd have to say that this is one of the least strong discs by the group in their entire discography.
I'm not sure if it's the lack of a clear-cut conceptual idea or something else, but the 11 songs on the release just seem to plow along through waters that the group has already rowed many times before. The slowcore opener of "Bands With Managers" is actually one of the more successful tracks on the release, moving through molasses before punctuating choruses that shake the track free. "Arizona" also manages to stand out a bit with a strong chiming guitar melody before crunching back into distortion land.
The lack of variety definitely bogs down the album in large part as well, especially through the middle section. Fortunately, things switch up a bit towards the end with the buoyant and glorious "Transcontinental" and the countrified closer of "The Poison." Even though the album is 11 tracks and under 40 minutes of running time, it just doesn't have the same amount of memorable parts of previous releases. Whereas old tracks like "Big Trucks" and even "Slow And Steady Wins The Race" stick in your craw for a long time, I can barely remember a thing after Achilles Heel stops spinning. It's not a flat-out horrible album, but quite a dissapointment from the usually reliable group.