Clem Snide – The Meat of Life (Album Stream)

February 14, 2010

Clem Snide‘s lineup changes frequently, which makes sense for a band that’s never come close to making the same record twice. Your Favorite Music is a warm, cello-infused masterpiece with largely acoustic arrangements. The Ghost of Fashion is a sonically daring concept album about vanity and selfishness; the band followed it with Soft Spot, a deceptively simple collection of songs about unconditional love. Hungry Bird, once billed as Clem Snide’s swan song, is a sprawling bit of post-apocalyptic prog-rock, while The Meat of Life polishes its predecessor’s weird edges to a smooth and appealing shine.

The group’s one constant has been the unpredictable and inspired songwriting of Israeli-born, New Jersey-raised, Nashville-based Eef Barzelay, who seems to look at every issue sideways and winds up encountering real epiphanies. Dispensed with a warm, wry warble — he’s like indie rock’s Kermit the Frog, in the absolute best possible way — Barzelay’s lyrics have a way of hiding humor in melancholy, and vice versa. Just listen to his new ballad, “Denver,” which unfolds as an escalating series of devastating confessions. His protagonist’s self-pity becomes hopelessly intertwined with funny absurdity, but then the wrenching consequences of his words become clear.

Though it’s far from single-minded in concept, The Meat of Life — Clem Snide’s seventh full-length album, not counting Barzelay’s two fine solo records — does emphasize the messy aftermath of individual decisions. Pleas for forgiveness, compromise and comfort surface in “Please” and “Anita,” among others, while the lush epic “With Nothing Much to Show of It” finds Barzelay looking for greater meaning, only to settle calmly for what’s at hand. In that way, The Meat of Life is one of Clem Snide’s most adult records, as thought-provoking as it is engagingly catchy. The album will stream here in its entirety until its release on Feb. 23. NPR.ORG

~ by castleqwayr on February 18, 2010.

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