Tag Archives: Spinart

Clem Snide – Soft Spot

Clem SnideSoft Spot (SpinART)

Sometimes it can be a big drag when a band’s singer falls in love. As song after song on the latest cd pours out, detailing the ineffable greatness of the new flame and the sense of newfound contentment and everyday happiness, listening to it can be about as much fun as watching couples make out in a park where you’re trying to read a book or just think about your miserable lonely life.

But not Soft Spot by Clem Snide. It’s too pretty to complain about, and besides, I kind of like the singer’s new girlfriend. She looks critically at herself in the mirror; she gets colds and chapped lips; she seems to worry about aging—it’s hard to feel anything but warmth toward someone so human. Throughout the album, Eef Barzelay showers this vulnerable, anonymous person with songs of wholehearted love and devotion. “Summer will come, with Al Green and sweetened ice tea,” he sings emotionally on “All Green.” “Summer will come and be all green with the sweetness of thee.” “You’re the flower of my heart,” he sings on “Find Love,” somehow not sounding like a total idiot. “That my thoughts can’t tear apart. We have love, we have love/ strong enough to doubt.” There, in the last clause, is the skeptical, sometimes sarcastic note touched in so many other Clem Snide songs. But here, it’s consistently overridden by the singer’s brave embrace of emotion.

Mutual love, for some reason, isn’t a great subject for rock songs. “Gee, you’re swell,” as a feeling, just isn’t that interesting—aching regret, helpless addiction, yearning from afar, and bitter denunciation all seem to lend themselves more naturally to songwriting than the happiness that comes with genuine love. But Eef Barzelay turns that on its head. He’s exuberant in his expressions of affection, but the songs are also irresistible—effortlessly melodic and catchy. A swooping, romantic violin noodles around the melody in some, making them so liltingly memorable that they seem like future favorite dance tunes for contemporary couples to celebrate anniversaries to. (See, I’m hopelessly won over by this album, and I’m really bitter!) “There is nothing in this world if I can’t share my love with you,” goes the refrain on “There is Nothing,” a simple country ballad. “All the riches of this world, can’t compare to your smile/ and if only for a kiss, I would walk a thousand miles.” I could endlessly quote Barzelay’s mature, well expressed acceptance of love in its totality and the change that brings to one’s general outlook. The singer’s trademark cleverness is evident in many lines, but this time on the side of niceness, not meanness: “You could be coming down with something/ so I’ll come down, with you,” he sings to his chilled, sneezing love.

It’s not all gentle mellowness. There’s the fast, Elvis C. and the Attractions-ish rave-up, “Where There’s Love There’s Action,” a harmonica-driven rocker that’s about just really liking to be with somebody. And there’s the equally engaging “Happy Birthday,” a likable song for the band’s drummer. “Half-Jewish boys make kick-ass drummers,” Barzelay sings warmly, “but if you need lessons I’ll have to pay.” He seems full of real, open-hearted feeling for everyone on this record. Near the end he sings a quiet, finger-picked “Forever Young”-esque song (“Fontanelle”) which, like a benediction, hopes for the listener: “May God hold you in his hand.”

This cd didn’t leave my player for weeks after I got it. It’s uplifting, fun to sing along with, melodically beautiful, and love-soaked but not in a clich├ęd way.

You can download “All Green” from SpinART, and there are other Clem Snide mp3s at mp3.com.

MC Honky – I Am The Messiah

MC HonkyI Am The Messiah (SpinART)

E of Eels fame takes a shot at Cocktail Nation kitsch/techno under the moniker of “MC Honky”. He’s about 10 years too late, but so what? I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff (Combustible Edison, Tipsy, Thievery Corps, Euro Boys). But is E’s late arrival to this genre worth the ticket price? The story E cooked up is that MC Honky, a reclusive, middle-aged sound engineer, decided to take his massive collection of records and make an electronica album of what he calls “self-help rock.” That fiction sets the tone for I Am The Messiah, which works pretty well overall. There’s some tricky mixing going on (“The Baby That Was You”), and some priceless samples of kitschy old records. E even throws down the gauntlet at Beck (“3 Turntables & 2 Microphones”). Some of this would be right at home in the club scene (“Sonnet No.3 (Like A Duck)”, “The Devil Went Down To Silverlake”); other cuts lean toward ambient/trance. And some other cuts sound like B-side Eels tracks (“My Bad Seed,” “Soft Velvety ‘Fer”), and add only filler.

So what to make of it? This isn’t exactly a retro-purist’s dream come true, but it is interesting and does expand the genre. If you’re looking for truly great lounge electronica, get Tipsy. Taken another way, it’s an unusually upbeat Eels album, although not a great one. “Sonnet No.3 (Like A Duck)” does rock, and wonderfully mixes a Shakespearean sonnet with an exercise record. That will make you put on yer dancin’ shoes.

Also included is a Quicktime animated video of “Sonnet No.3 (Like A Duck),” and it’s a gas. You can also sample it (and the entire album via RealPlayer) at The Eels’ website.