This is Clem Snide. They are a band whose lead singer’s voice is as jarring as his name, Eef Barzelay. They are a drunk country band from New Jersey and Nashville, and sometimes Brooklyn, and they are drunk because it is fun, and, moreso, because the members of Clem Snide firmly believe there is no hope. They’re not a bunch of armegeddon signwavers, Clem Snide, but they think that we’re doomed to live an imperfect love with frozen dinner dates, and occasional glimpses of connection. They’re trechant and harsh. They’re the friend too honest to keep. They won’t sing you love songs, at least not one’s you’ll know are love songs, because that’s just trite. They’re songs are wrapped up in similes, they can’t always see their way through. The group gallops and trips and musters their way through these songs, trailing behind or being dragged by Barzelay’s vocals, depending on your perspective, and depending on the song. Here’s a pop culture reference I can’t quite believe I’m making: Clem Snide are the Doctor House of alt-country bands.
“Well IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII don’t WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN’T to know me BETERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR” Barzelay wails at the end of “Let’s Explode” and the sentiment fits. He’s not doing this for self examination, or soul bearing, or for anything ever resembling empathy. He’s doing it because his mind is soaking in brine and he’s got some stories to tell.
And this is not Clem Snide. I recently got a job in Brooklyn, doing the kind of work I want to be doing (criminal justice work, for those curious), and am, within the next few weeks, moving the 21.1ish miles from Teaneck, NJ to the borough. Part of me, a real part, is absolutely terrified by this, by such a radical change in my life. And this Clem Snide song get’s it. It’s one of the most beautiful, serene and genuine songs the band has written. The images of the song are both fantastical and impossible, so it’s refrain “when we become what we’re running from” might initially seem to suggest a mildly hidden resignation: we will never, ever become what we’re running from. But the second verse, one of the most simple, bursting at the seems romantic things Barzelay has ever written, gives the chorus a different feel. We can’t run from change, is what I ultimately take from the song. A handful of weeks ago, I was living happily in Michigan with three friends from college, had a great job working with people I loved, and was, slowly but surely building up a life. Right now, I’m sitting in my childhood bedroom on a futon because my old matress had springs sticking out. A few weeks from now, I will be updating this from a drawing table in Bed-Stuy.
Here‘s an equally good live take.
The band released a new one earlier this year; you can hear it here.
And now I’ve got a problem: if there are three things Brooklyn doesn’t need at this moment, those three things have to be The Nets, myself, and another fucking MP3 blog. So…do I keep writing about Michigan bands wistfully from afar, like that dithering lamewad who narrates Wuthering Heights? Do I write about Jersey bands, wistfully from not-so-afar? Do I chose a random city and only write about bands from that? Do I stop pretending that this is a blog that is in any way tied to a particular music scene? Well, I guess we’ll see.