Clem Snide

End of Love

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Clem Snide's fifth album holds no surprises for anyone who has heard albums one through four. End of Love is just as whip smart, goofy, and satisfying as any of them. It holds the usual 50/50 ratio of deeply emotional ballads and rollicking uptempo numbers, the usual raft of off-kilter pop culture references (German hip-hop, I Love Lucy on "Made for TV Movie"), and a distinct country-rock flavor, even more than in the past. (Perhaps this is due to the presence of alternative country hero Paul Burch on guitar.) It also features one of the group's most beautiful songs, the absolutely gorgeous "When We Become," which floats on a tender cloud of strings, soft pianos, and sweet female vocals. With every album Eef Barzelay's vocals become more assured -- well, assured might be the wrong word because he has always been the focal point of the band with his twisted lyrical view and his keening, nutjob-next-door voice way out front. Maybe now there is a richer, fuller tone to his voice. Maybe after four albums it has become old hat. Either way, he sounds stronger than ever. He has written some of his best songs, too, like the epic rocking title track, the silly but smooth and hooky "Tiny European Cars," and the catchy as heck "Fill Me With Your Light." The only misstep is "Something Beautiful," which is a touch too derivative of Tom Waits musically and tries too hard lyrically (which for a writer as artful as Barzelay is really saying something). It isn't terrible, really -- just a bit obvious. Clem Snide have made a nice little career out of not being obvious. End of Love is solid craftsmanship, the result of a band in control of its sound and the work of a writer who will never be boring. Those are rare attributes indeed, and if you missed albums one through four, this is as good a place as any to start your Clem Snide collection.

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