Pedro the Lion released their first new album in fifteen years. Phoenix is an amazing album, and I plan to do a proper write up of it in a couple weeks – but for now I want to focus on an album we should all listen to. The album is, as I mentioned in my “Literature Rocks” playlist, an example of a musical piece of literature. Winners Never Quit, from 2000, tells a tale of two brothers. One, a successful politician, and one, a drunken screw up. This album, like much of Pedro the Lion’s music, is still very relevant, and perhaps even prophetic at times. Let’s look at Winners Never Quit, shall we?
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
We start off the album with the two brothers, as boys, walking to their grandmother’s house. The (future) politician stayed on the path, while the (future) screw up strays and gets poison ivy, snake bites, and even broken legs. The (future) brother does nothing to help – even denies knowing where the brother is to the grandmother.
The second verse talks about the (future) politician’s eventual reward in heaven for being such a good person. There are many disturbing instances on Winners Never Quit, but this might be the most disturbing. The (future politician) is so delusional that he thinks he’s good. He thinks of himself as righteous and worthy of all the success and rewards life will bring him. The (future) politician lies to his grandma, and doesn’t even help his brother from possible life and death situations – yet he still thinks he’s “good.” The “good” son grows up with this delusion of virtue. He loses any grip he has on morality (as we’ll see later) through this delusion.
I said this album might be prophetic at times. Slow and Steady Wins the Race, reminds me of a certain politician who believes he can do no wrong. But I won’t mention names…
Simple Economics shows us two parts of the “good” brother’s life. The first verse focuses on his political ambitions. He’s a candidate not expected to win an election. He gets a phone call – which cements a conniving deal. The deal will win him the election (most likely through fraudulent means).
The second verse serves as a flashback of when he was just a lowly office worker, wanting to get more and more power in the workplace. He covets his supervisor’s desk – and her ability to make “some big decisions.”
This is the same guy who, as a kid, thinks he can do know wrong – he’s the good son! He’s going to heaven and deserves all the good stuff coming to him! Bribery? Well, apparently that’s God’s will according to the candidate. Coveting? Well – that’s just God’s way of telling you what to go for.
Again – if you really want to draw a parallel to someone who might have bribed his way into office, someone who started in the business world – yeah….that’s really easy. But again, I won’t mention names….
To Protect The Family Name
To Protect the Family name comes from the perspective of the “bad” brother. He’s been pulled over for drunk driving, and all he cares about is that he might hurt his brother’s good name. The “bad” son feels so ashamed that his “sin” (as the “good” brother calls it) taints the family (or rather the politician’s election campaign). The screw up just wants to do good for his brother, yet his addiction keeps hurting him.
Yes – there is still yet even another parallel to a certain politician. A certain politician whose brother died because of his alcoholism. I don’t know the details – but I suspect this politician was less than loving and caring to his brother. I say that because of how he treats those closest to him. The man’s friends are all disposable. Again – I won’t mention names. Still, I feel like Pedro the Lion would agree – these parallels are really creepy.
A Mind of Her Own
A Mind of Her Own really hurts my soul to listen to. In the aftermath of the bribe by the politician, his wife threatens to tell to the press about the bribe. This results in a heated argument through locked doors.
The politician takes the moral high ground as though he is doing the right thing. He says things such as “They (his opponents) pervert the words of Godly men,” as justification of his actions. He still believes, despite the bribes and the fraud, he’s doing God’s work. His power hunger has consumed him – fueled by his belief that he can do no wrong.
The guitars foreshadow a dark feeling, as they’re played heavily and in a minor chord. As David Bazen almost yells the ending – we realize the reason for this dark feeling. The Politician kills his wife so she doesn’t “squeal.”
Truly a painful song to listen to.
Never Leave a Job Half Done
Never Leave a Job Half Done shows us the immediate aftermath of A Mind of Her Own. The politician hides the body, cleans the crime scene, and has to lie about where his wife has gone.
We almost get the sense that the politician finally grows a conscious – that he realizes finally he does something wrong. Certainly he’s got these questions in his head at least. Still – in the end, he just says “she almost ruined everything.” The politician has not changed.
Eye on The Finish Line
In Eye on the Finish Line, we see the politician mentioning his clear conscious. He believes in time, his wife would have understood his actions (even her own murder). He believes it’s all for the greater good.
Still – there’s a grief he can’t shake. He knows the final action has to do – even though this won’t be understood. Even through all the grief he causes with his suicide and with all his other deeds, he still believes he’s doing good. He still believes he’s going to meet his wife in “their mansion in the sky.”
As he finally kills himself, he utters one last thing: “Martyrs never have a say.”
Bad Things to Good People
We finally hear from the “bad” son again. He’s attending his brother’s funeral with his parents. He still believes that his brother is the good one, and he’s the bad one. He always tried his best, but he just couldn’t fight his addictions.
He’s also worried about his parents’ reputation. Their “good” son disgraced them, while he probably will eventually fall off the wagon again and disgrace them even more.
We finally see the thesis of “Winners Never Quit.” It isn’t success. It isn’t power or money that makes a good person. In fact, those things tend to corrupt. What makes a good person – what makes you the “good” brother is actually just doing your best – even if you’re a screw up. What makes you “good” is your heart – it’s all about love.
Winners Never Quit
We end the album with an epilogue. Essentially saying that the “bad” son won because he never quit. He gets a second chance, because he was such a failure. Winners Never Quit almost sounds like a call to grace….those that need grace get it. Those that really try, but fail, get second chances. Those that refuse to acknowledge their weaknesses get nothing.
Winners Never Quit: still relevant.
Winners Never Quit is relevant, even 18 years later. On the surface, like I’ve snarkily mentioned, the “good” son shows parallels to a certain politician who I won’t name. No, he hasn’t killed his wife, but his attitude and the way he treats people – I’m sorry for any of my readers who like the guy, but yeah – that’s (name of politician omitted).
Digging deeper, the politician could be anyone seeking power. Yes – a person might seem moral and righteous and even God ordained – but look how they treat those closest to them. Look at their egos. Do they believe they’re human, or do they believe they’re God’s favorite? Do they love their brother, or do they care more about the damage their brother does to the family name (and their own ambitions)? These are questions we need to ask in regards to our politicians. Even the politicians that seem amazing. Be it Bernie Sanders, or Mitch McConnell. Be it Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Donald Trump. ANY politician can tell us what we want to hear. Maybe they’ll even deliver a little here and there. But if they don’t have love – they’re useless.
Digging even deeper – Winners Never Quit tells us not to judge the screw ups and failures in our lives. Instead – look at how hard they try. Do they want to change? Are we giving them the chance to change? Or are we just giving them more obstacles to overcome? Chasing our dreams is amazing – but we should also chase those who are important to us. Even – nay – especially – if they can’t fight for themselves. Even if you don’t agree with my political takeaways, please – agree with this. It’s important. It’s a lesson we all, myself included, need to learn on a daily basis.