It’s so easy for an artist or band to be looked over these days. Thanks to Myspace, Youtube and blogs, gaining access to and endless amount of music is almost effortless. Everything is so accessible, so sometimes it’s tiring to sift through all of the junk while searching for a jewel. One of those diamonds in the rough, however, is Nashville’s Clem Snide. The band got its name from a character from several William S. Burroughs novels. There are a few guys in the band. It’s not just a guy named Clem, by the way.Forming in the early 90s, Clem Snide has never seen much commercial success. They didn’t even record an album until 1998’s You Were a Diamond, which is an astounding record. Next came Your Favorite Music in 1999 and Ghost of Fashion in 2001. One of the tracks on Ghost of Fashion, “Moment in the Sun,” was featured as the theme song for the NBC series Ed. It seemed like things were going pretty well. They were about to set out on their North American tour, but it was cut short by the events on 9/11. This had to have been frustrating for the band, seeing that they were just gaining steam and being recognized. They released two more albums, Soft Spot and End of Love, and then split in 2005.
Five years later, they decided to give it a try, and the result was The Meat of Life. On the new album, it’s easy to hear that songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist Eef Barzelay has been through some tough times since the last record. His voice sounds more mature and his poignant lyrics seem to drive through even harder than before.
The opening track, “Wal-Mart Parking Lot,” is, presumably, about a love gone sour. The narrator talks about driving all night after an altercation with a girlfriend and waking up in a Wal-Mart parking lot. You really feel some sympathy for this character, but he assures you he’s all right when he sings, “Sunrise in a Wal-Mart parking lot never looked so beautiful.”
There’s another song on the album, “Denver,” that almost made me cry the first time I heard it. Barzelay starts the song singing, “I hope that you never forgive me. Forever, deny me your smile. Because I met this woman in Denver, and now she is carrying my child.” The song tells a painful account from a guy who is trying to do the right thing. Truly, a beautiful story, and it sounds so sincere. I’m not sure if this is a true story, but he could’ve fooled me if it’s not.
This album is definitely different from any of their previous albums, but it’s definitely a gem. These guys deserve some attention, and they live right down the road.
Bands like Clem Snide make me want to urge people to dig deep. Find the good stuff and embrace it, even if it doesn’t ever get the chance to grace the charts. Support independent music by going to shows and buying albums. These artists need cool people to listen to their good music.