Since the mid-1980s, David Pedroza has fronted a shifting array of bands on the local scene while keeping single-mindedly to a street-leaning brand of riffy, soulful rock built on the styles of such illustrious precursors as Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Mott the Hoople.
The Pedroza-led Scarecrows, Spanish Fly and Supernaturals never made an album, but as he finally debuts as a solo act, many of his old buddies are on hand to help. The most famous of them--Marc Ford, a former Scarecrows guitarist now flocking with the Black Crowes--doesn't play on the CD. But such sharp local musicians as Mark Dutton, who co-produced the album with Pedroza, keyboards player Joe Simon and lead guitarist Jack Rivera give the record just the right mix of raw, let-it-rip messiness and emotive warmth.
Pedroza is no innovator, and it is easy to spot lyrical bits or musical passages that are mainly homages to his sources. His deadpan singing lacks the swaggering, attitude-filled vocal dynamism and confidence of a Jagger, Bowie or Reed. But in his own nice-guy way, this rock 'n' roll Everyman does a good job of getting across his tales. Warm, intimate and leaning toward ballads, marked by his ear for chorus melodies that linger in the mind, the 10-song collection plays to Pedroza's strengths.
He sings about the pretensions and pitfalls of the back alley regions of rock 'n' roll, in which decadence is worn like a badge. He also sings gently and appreciatively of the comfort to be found in accepting lovers' arms when the decadent life loses its glamour and becomes just another lonely downer.
Sometimes Pedroza falls into a cryptic lingo adapted from Bowie and Mott at their early-'70s glam-est, and certain bits sound as if he is singing in code: "Neo screwdriver jiver, park your icicle bicycle two-door rhinestone rider, and I'll splash junk on your neck and you'll take on freaky shapes," he pledges to an otherworldly lover in "Earth to Stella." Playing with the way words sound is becoming a lost art in rock lyric-writing, and if Pedroza goes overboard slinging a hash of rhymes and alliterations, that's better than going board-stiff with bland declaring.
With highlights such as the beleaguered drugger's lament, "Slow Dive"; "Hanging On," with its chunky bounce of hopeful resilience in the face of disaster; and "Call Me Crazy," a fetching erotic ballad that is sweet, soulful and sexy in equal measure, Pedroza makes his meanings and feelings clear enough.
Available from Spun Records, P.O. Box 429, Hollywood, CA 90078; (213) 463-7786.