Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

Consumer Guide:
  User's Guide
  Grades 1990-
  Grades 1969-89
  And It Don't Stop
  Book Reports
  Is It Still Good to Ya?
  Going Into the City
  Consumer Guide: 90s
  Grown Up All Wrong
  Consumer Guide: 80s
  Consumer Guide: 70s
  Any Old Way You Choose It
  Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough
Xgau Sez
  And It Don't Stop
  CG Columns
  Rock&Roll& [new]
  Rock&Roll& [old]
  Music Essays
  Music Reviews
  Book Reviews
  NAJP Blog
  Rolling Stone
  Video Reviews
  Pazz & Jop
Web Site:
  Site Map
  What's New?
Carola Dibbell:
  Carola's Website
CG Search:
Google Search:

Clem Snide

  • You Were a Diamond [Tractor Beam, 1997] **
  • Your Favorite Music [Sire, 2000] B+
  • The Ghost of Fashion [SpinArt, 2001] A-
  • Moment in the Sun EP [SpinArt EP, 2002] Dud
  • Soft Spot [SpinArt, 2003] ***
  • A Beautiful EP [SpinArt EP, 2003] Choice Cuts
  • End of Love [SpinArt, 2005] A-
  • Hungry Bird [429, 2009] **
  • The Meat of Life [429, 2010] **
  • Girls Come First [Zahpwee, 2015] **
  • Forever Just Beyond [Ramseur/Thirty Tigers, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

You Were a Diamond [Tractor Beam, 1997]
Deadpan country-folk, nasty when you turn your back ("Nick Drake Tape," "Chinese Baby"). **

Your Favorite Music [Sire, 2000]
Too doleful and detached to be as compassionate as he feels he should be, Eef Barzelay turns his best impulses into slow tunes with homely words that express concern without quite holding together or committing him to anything. Don't think he'll "die for your sins"--"Take it easy or you'll hurt yourself" is as far as Eef'll go. Maybe he'd cheer up if he rechristened himself John Doe. B+

The Ghost of Fashion [SpinArt, 2001]
The music is conceived songs first, an epidemic problem in current rock and roll. especially rock and roll as putative as this. And since Eef Barzelay adds the usual enigmatic tendencies to a voice worthy of an accountant in a Presbyterian choir (in Dubuque), its popular potential is limited. Nevertheless, the band now sounds both more rock and roll (faster tempos, straighter propulsion) and more chamber music (louder cello, weirder lap steel), and more is what Eef's somber tunes and noncommital wit inspired hope for last time. Metaphorical materials include ice cubes, Jewish junkies, Elvis's twin, a driving test, and a Joan Jett of Arc who burns her bridges in front of her and her steak at the Sizzler. A-

Moment in the Sun EP [SpinArt EP, 2002] Dud

Soft Spot [SpinArt, 2003]
hard to maintain that rock and roll edge when you've fallen in love with a baby ("All Green," "Action") ***

A Beautiful EP [SpinArt EP, 2003]
"Mike Kalinsky" Choice Cuts

End of Love [SpinArt, 2005]
Since all the lines make sense, and almost all the stanzas almost make sense, you keep waiting for the songs to make sense. And waiting, and waiting, through calm, memorable arrangements that are never in a hurry. But they rarely come clear, perhaps because Eef Barzalay believes it isn't just love that's ending, it's the world, and what exactly is sensible about that? As befits an Israeli in Nashville in the end times, he worries about his relationship with the Almighty, so it's no surprise that "Jews for Jesus Blues" parses fine: "Now that I'm found I miss being lost" means what it says, with attendant explanations. The next song is called "God Answers Back": "If you get everything you hope for/Then I will have to punish you." Which really isn't fair. But what can we mortals do? A-

Hungry Bird [429, 2009]
Impressionistic doomsongs that grow in beauty, as if to prove doom has an afterlife ("Pray," "With All My Heart"). **

The Meat of Life [429, 2010]
The kind of record that makes you wonder whether he's feeling sad about selected American lives, or really just his own ("Walmart Parking Lot," "Denver"). **

Girls Come First [Zahpwee, 2015]
Wise advice, unmistakable empathy, questionable promises, pained voice, minimal band ("Grace," "Wendy") **

Forever Just Beyond [Ramseur/Thirty Tigers, 2020]
His folk-rock strictly utilitarian and his unaccented vocals plain verging on bland, Eef Barzalay knows his own strength: a serious gift for transforming philosophical apercus into legible rhymes. "Oh God is simply that which lies/Forever just beyond the limits/Of what we already seem to know." "There is a vastness that can't be contained/Or described as a flash in the flesh of our brains/It's everything, everywhere, future and past/Dissolving forever in an eternal flash." "Oh Emily I believe there ain't much of nothing/That we can change in this world/Except for our own mind and heart/To be more kind and brave in the face of it all." "We've never left the place we're searching for/Don't bring no ladder when you die." And it don't stop. A-