Clem Snide – Hungry Bird
I don’t really know who I’m writing this review for. Is it the long-time Clem Snide fan who hears their first new album for about five years? The neophyte, who knows nothing but this? Myself and my long-term relationship with their music? I don’t know.
When you’ve been a fan of a band for nine years or so, through half a dozen full albums and a few live CDs, rarities compilations and EPs, then your perspective inevitably changes. For long-term fans I’ll just say this: this album will probably take its time to sink in, but it will be largely worth the wait. It reminds me of The End of Love in that respect – perhaps not as immediately arresting on the first few listens, but with a warmth, a depth and an intimacy which mean that your patience will be rewarded if you give it a chance.
For new listeners, this is a gorgeous album, although if you want a cast-iron Clem Snide classic I might perhaps refer you to Your Favourite Music or Ghost of Fashion.
Harking back to those two records, although they genuinely are my favourites, seems to be really underestimating their later output though. They’ve changed as a band, and although that change does seem to have been in the direction of less musical variation, the fundamentals of the songwriting have not weakened. Eef Barzelay still writes some of the most caustic, impressive lyrics in the business and their ability to engage with you emotionally hasn’t waned.
That emotional engagement comes increasingly from a slow build of warmth and sympathy within the textures of the song, rather than simply an infectious hook, so you could easily be forgiven for overlooking it, but it is still there. I felt that way myself, pretty much from End of Love onwards, inclusing Barzelay’s recent solo album, but despite thinking ‘oh gosh, no tunes’ on first listen with all of these records, they invariably end up grabbing me despite this. I don’t know if it’s because of the lyrics, because of that combination of the acerbic with the humourous, or because of their musical ability to simply play in a manner which makes its own peace with your psyche, but something they do seems to mean that I am fated to connect with their music eventually.
So it may not be their best album, but there is something about it which is worming its way deeper and deeper into my head with every listen.clem snide, eef barzelay