Music » Record Reviews

Sardonic songwriter and his upstart noise band hit the Hi-Tone

by

comment

The founder and frontman for much-missed indie-rockers Clem Snide, the now Nashville-based Eef Barzelay is one of the past decade's very best songwriters, a sardonic, penetrating lyricist with a gift for deadpan laugh lines and lilting melodies.

Lose Big is Barzelay's second solo album and first since his band's official dissolution. It might be his most personal, self-directed album, something suggested by the decision to name the album after "Lose Big," a rueful, downbeat anthem about the struggle to make it as a musician and keep a relationship together. The song offers snapshots ranging from the darkly comic (a female fan buys him drinks after a show and he talks her ear off about his partner back home) to the dark.

The album leads off with "Could Be Worse," which finds the singer apologizing to a significant other for bumming out her party guests. "Please forgive me if I leave you feeling uninspired," Barzelay sings. "My only pleasure is to make that bubble burst/I can't find comfort in the fact that it could be worse."

The following "The Girls Don't Care" ropes Barzelay's (male) fans into the introspection and self-deprecation, offering a litany of romantic advice for the kind of brainy hipster guy Barzelay recognizes all too clearly: "Don't quote Five Easy Pieces/Tivo Cool Hand Luke/Don't talk about how God is dead and love is just a fluke ... the girls don't care."

This doesn't mean Barzelay has foregone fictional narrators on Lose Big. Often on these songs, there's a thin line between hushed empathy and knife-twisting critique. (Among the most memorable, "Ballad of Bitter Honey," off Barzelay's previous solo album, the fierce first-person account of a hip-hop "video ho.")

Barzelay's tone and perspective are often shifty. On "True Freedom," a spiritually oriented love paean is gradually revealed to be the musings of a kid at a church function when "youth minister Ted" interrupts the protagonist's monologue. But this comic twist subtly gives way to something potentially more sinister.

— Chris Herrington

Grade: B+

Eef Barzelay plays the Hi-Tone Café Friday, June 20th, with Oracle & the Mountain. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $10.

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Add a comment