Clem Snide - Moment in the Sun


Clem Snide - Moment in the Sun

The first incarnation of Clem Snide (named for one of the characters in William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch) was a jazzy punk band assembled by singer/songwriter/guitarist Eef Barzelay while he was attending college in Boston during the early 90’s. This version of the band called it quits in 1994. A few years later, Barzelay, who in the interim had quit school and moved back in with his parents, began writing songs ago and hooked-up again with one-time Snide bassist Jason Glasser, who was attending art school in New York City and had taken up the cello. Initially calling themselves Fruit Key, they added Jeff Marshall on double bass and Brad Reitz on drums, and reassumed the Clem Snide moniker.

This time around, they played an organic, largely acoustic alt-country. They recorded finely polished demo tape, and their albums have always been recorded hootenanny style, with an array of friends, collaborators, and well-wishers contributing to the tracks. They released the outstanding You Were a Diamond in 1998, which in turn led to a major label release for 2000’s You Favorite Music, an even better disc that was good enough to get them dropped by Sire Records. They signed on with spinART Records for 2001’s The Ghost of Fashion, which was one of the best albums of last year.

Capitalizing on the commercial good fortune of a song from that record, “Moment in the Sun,” being chosen as the theme song for the American television comedy “Ed,” Clem Snide has released Moment in the Sun, a 6-song EP that features two versions of the title song, a new mix of an older Clem Snide tune, and three new songs.

The first track is the radio edit of “Moment in the Sun,” a dreamy, idiosyncratic, mid-tempo alt-countryish ballad which builds at a deliberate pace from lazy strummed guitar to a loose, lush, groovy full band number complete with a terrific horn arrangement. The radio edit looses its momentum trying to be radio friendly. Because of this, it’s clearly inferior to the album version, which is also including here as the EP’s final track.

“I Believe You Lies” sounds more like a demo than a finished album track, but it demonstrates the bands strengths: deadpan lyricism and gorgeous, meandering acoustic melodies. It’s another folky ballad, only sparer, with Barzelay’s voice backed by acoustic guitar, a vibraphone, and a drum machine.

Cut from the same cloth, the next two songs, “Now the Moment’s Gone” and “Do You Love Me?,” are coffeehouse blues, solo performances with voice and acoustic guitar, complete with strained vocals and frantically strummed chords on the song’s chorus. But Clem Snide aren’t complete primitives, as evidenced by the fact Barzelay’s voice here is closer to Billy Corgan than Bob Dylan.

“Your Favorite Music (Master Key Mix)” is a new mix of the title track from the band’s second album. It’s the most jazz-orientated than the other tracks on the EP, relying less on acoustic guitar and more on cello and saxophone and an electronic rhythm to carry it along.

The final track is the version of “Moment in the Sun” that appeared on last year’s Ghost of Fashion. This is the far better version of the two offered here, the full 5 minutes 26 seconds, building slowly from citified honkytonk to hard swinging jazz. It also features Barzelay at his smart-assed lyrically best.

While it’s more of a strike while the iron is hot EP than an essential record, Moment in the Sun is a fine introduction to Clem Snide for the uninitiated. If your familiar with bands like Lambchop, Wilco, Son Volt, and the Silver Jews, you ought to check this out.

Matt Parks (April 28, 2002)

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