Clem Snide: End of Love
End of Love
Clem Snide leader Eef Barzelay sings in a nasal, vaguely asthmatoid voice that suggests long hours spent reading poetry and listening to Loudon Wainwright III while trapped in a gym locker. In the geek-empowering world of bookish indie-rock, that could make Barzelay a sex symbol. (He's married with children, so you can probably forget it.) It's an alternately charming and grating voice. On End of Love's less distinguished melodies ("The Sound of German Hip Hop" is very much like Bruce Springsteen's "The River," but without the drama), Barzelay's humble pipes help make some rather effete jingle-jangle all the less vigorous. But the singer-songwriter, an East Coaster now living in Nashville, can also be a witty, cutting lyricist and a subtle tune crafter, which makes about half of End of Love essential listening for fans of spectacle pop.
The group has a distant past as a jazz-inflected noise-rock band (I haven't heard any of this early material), but now favors a delicate folk-rock sound sometimes redolent of Dylan's John Wesley Harding or Neil Young's Comes a Time. A true romantic and a seemingly likeable fellow, Barzelay croons that "no one will survive the end of love" on the album's title track, and generously but foolishly lets a child sing backing vocals on "Made for TV Movie." But he also has a mean streak, which (pleasantly) harshes End of Love's mellow here and there. The punch line of the mildly groovy "Something Beautiful" is that the song's subject makes the singer want to "break something beautiful" and do other impetuous things ("sip Lysol from a cup," and, my favorite, "fold the map improperly.") "Weird," the album's closing hootenanny, lampoons a poseur with a friendly smile that avoids overstating the sin of pretension: "You painted your sneakers/you talk to yourself/You won't eat with me 'cause you care for your health/Well, you wrote me a poem and it didn't rhyme/You're not as weird as you act all the time."
The album's best tune, though, is also its most gentle. "Tiny European Cars" proffers a lithe, descending melody, a plaintive guitar solo, and snazzy words like these: "Tiny European cars are dropping from the sky/Their wonderfully efficient engines fueled by Spanish wine." Hell, I might call that poetry.
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