For all the crap the Counting Crows and James Taylor wade through for being dorm-room filler and bar-band source material, it certainly seems they’ve made an impression on countrified indie rockers Clem Snide.
I say this having listened to End of Love, the fifth album from the quartet, which splits its time between Brooklyn and Nashville. Its first four songs and later “Jews for Jesus Blues” would not sound out of place on Duritz and Company’s This Desert Life. Two quieter, more reflective numbers, “The Sound of German Hip-Hop” and the gorgeous “Tiny European Cars,” showcase lead singer and guitarist Eef Barzelay’s “Fire and Rain”-ing vocal chops.
You might think this is a bad thing. You are wrong. End of Love plays with the breezy comfort of FM radio but embodies the same highbrow spirit we once equated with Pavement. Lyrics like “The City Council members came/ And told us not to fear/ The king and queen of homecoming/ Both shed a poignant tear,” from “The Sound of German Hip-Hop,” make no sense, either in context or alone. But neither do they put us off, so when he hear “And just like that it happened/ The starling blinked its eye/ The molecules collided/ And became part of the sky,” later in the same song, we know this event, this “it” — apocalyptic in scope — was for the best. We’re relieved, though not sure why.
And unlike say, Adam Green, Barzelay has impeccable taste, backed by a musical hoedown that includes banjo, trombone, lots of drums and something called a “euphonium,” as well as fourteen musicians, including members of Lambchop, Crooked Fingers and the Lounge Lizards. All this, and yet it’s weightless, heavy as a cloud and noisy as the night.