For over a decade now, Clem Snide has been able to pull off a delightful sound that interfaced a woebegone demeanor with the congeniality of antique pop and a splash of alt-country tunefulness. But the one thing that has made them a standout band has been the geeky voice of lead singer/songwriter Eef Barzelay; whose skills can compound the arcane lyrics and scoffing levity of Steely Dan, and the humorous philosophical ponderings of Charles Bukowski. Now on their fifth album, The End of Love, Clem Snide have come out with an effort that has a heavy tone of warm candor that Barzelay wrote over the past year while he was “knee-deep in dark and slippery emotional goo” on a record that he claims is about “failing triumphantly.”
The title track is a nice and strummy number which mocks the people who live by the Dr. Phil psycho babble approach toward love and makes an implication toward the destiny of people who will turn out like Mark David Chapman with the quote “the first thing every killer reads is `Catcher in the Rye’.” Clem Snide even maintains an affinity for being melancholy and jangly with the half-buried guitar fuzz on “Collapse.”
No matter what Clem Snide album you play, rest assured there will be some twang that always manages to creep up on you from out of left field. The frippery country-pop of “Fill Me With Your Light” has a beat that makes the song toddle around like something straight from a 1950s era Nashville barn dance. The off-kilter southern formula is used aptly in tracks that address the meanings of western Judeo-Christianity on the on the distortion hued, bubbly banjo infused “Jews for Jesus Blues” and the placid minimal tropical backbone of “God Answers Back,” a tune that Jimmy Buffet could groove along to. The rustic party-hardy nature of “Weird” will be sure to make the crowd start a line dance as parents are addressed with a mom who finds God and a dad who likes to drink.
Barzelay knack for unapologetically using other figures from history as catalysts for his points such as Sir Isaac Newton’s virginity at the time of his death on the delicate tenderness of “Tiny European Cars.” Even the dark sides of Lucille Ball’s personal life are fodder for discussion on “Made for TV Movie” as Barzelay mentions how Ricky Ricardo used to “beat her like a conga drum” whereas the biographical lyrics in and of themselves serves as a enzyme to mull over the pipe dream of eternal happiness and what truly growing old is all about. Nothing is out of bounds for this New Jersey quartet, whether it is the candidness of sniffing Lysol on the swampy soulfulness of “Something Beautiful” or an off-kilter look at the afterlife on the sparkling “When We Become” that features the gorgeous guest voice of songstress Carey Kotsionis.
The End of Love is kind of like sitting through an episode on Six Feet Under because all of the secrets that we all keep and the seedy emotional underbelly that everybody has, is addressed in a manner of being very matter-of-fact with a comical wryness. The End of Love is to Clem Snide what Sea Change was to Beck or even what A Ghost is Born is to Wilco. Maybe not so much as is the sound, but the tone that comes along where a person has the yearning to express the commonplace perils and skeletons with an end result that is as chilling as it is beautiful. If you are a new listener of Clem Snide or you just can’t get a grasp or their aura, The End of Love is the perfect place to start.
Neutral Milk Hotel – In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Lambchop – What Another Man Spills
Hayden – Everything I Long For