Clem Snide | Forever Just Beyond | (Thirty Tigers)
Four out of Five
Let’s be clear: Clem Snide is not the name of any individual. Like “Jethro Tull” or “Pink Floyd,” it was a handle plucked from a somewhat obscure source. In this case, it originated from a character created by author William S. Boroughs.
The band that operates under that moniker is led by singer/songwriter/in-house philosopher Eef Barzelay, and so it’s only natural that the group’s latest album, prophetically titled Forever Just Beyond, should be a reflection of the miasma that Barzelay has dealt with over the five years since the band’s last outing. Indeed, its mellow melodies diffuse a deeper discourse, that is, the need to achieve salvation despite a crumbling relationship, fiscal calamity and the challenge of finding one’s solace in spirituality.
Ostensively a roots rock outfit, Clem Snide have never been a band that’s easily identified. They’ve always had a bit of a power pop persuasion and even an occasional streak of eccentricity. That’s borne out here in the curious “Roger Ebert,” a song that seems to question whether the late critic’s demise was, in fact, a creepy conspiracy. “Sorry Charlie,” finds Barzelay informing the song’s namesake that his partying days are done, a prescient projection that informs everyone who now find themselves self-sequestering. Likewise, the quiet acoustic strum of “The Ballad of Eef Barzelay,” leaves little room for interpretation, given its confessional tone and the fact that its composer freely shares his sentiment. “Denial,” the bare-boned track that follows, takes a similar stance.
Still, despite some otherwise ominous observations, Forever Just Beyond remains an album of unabashed beauty, low-lit and flush with hushed harmonies and mellow musings. Having the Avett Brothers’ Scott Avett in the producer’s chair likely accounts for the poignancy imbued in each of these entries, given that it’ brings to mind the poignancy and fragility that Avetts themselves instill with such passionate and profundity in each of their own efforts. In this case, fans have been rewarded with a set of songs that occasionally demands that they lean in and listen. Once they do, they’ll find themselves left with an indelible impression.