Release Date: Feb 23, 2010
Record label: 429
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Alt-Country
After a few years of instability when the group's future was in doubt, Clem Snide are back and in clearly recognizable form on their seventh studio album, The Meat of Life, which finds the core trio of Eef Barzelay (guitar and vocals), Brendan Fitzpatrick (bass and keyboards), and Ben Martin (percussion) joined by guest musicians Tony Crow (keyboards), Roy Agee (trombone), and Carole Rabinowitz (cello). With the band in stable circumstances, for the most part Clem Snide pick up where they left off with Soft Spot and End of Love; except for a few moments where the electric guitars get pushed into overdrive on "BFF" and "Walmart Parking Lot," The Meat of Life faces Barzelay's darkly comic lyrics against melodies that wouldn't have felt out of place on a '70s soft rock session, with acoustic pianos and tasteful guitar lines providing the aural framework for stories of romantic angst and languid depression. Barzelay is seemingly incapable of singing without appearing to drip with irony, but the 12 songs on The Meat of Life never sound as if the band is forcing the joke, and the subtle balance between the polish of the music and the rough, dour textures of Barzelay's voice adds something close to poignancy, reflecting the arid, busted lives at the heart of these songs.
Clem Snide’s return was one of 2009’s more pleasant surprises. Sure, Eef Barzelay was doing all right on his own, but his solo work didn’t quite capture the feeling, the subtle energy his band always had on their records. The document they gave us upon their return, the long-recorded but never released album Hungry Bird, was a soft, breezy reminder of what we’d been missing.
The Meat of Life can be considered a sort of a comeback record for Clem Snide. It's not a comeback in the sense of being a return to form or a drastic departure, but it is a promise that prolific frontman Eef Barzelay won't have to go it alone again. Hungry Bird, a shoulda-been swan song that was initially abandoned mid-record because of the band's slow dissolution, was issued a year ago with news that Clem Snide would press on.