For whatever reason, Clem Snide's blip in my radar was neither loud nor big enough for me to acknowledge it for the last couple of years. On a bored day I decided to pick up an EP (thank goodness for moderately priced media) from them to finally see what they are all about. The EP of course was this one and I am completely dumbfounded. What the hell is wrong with me? While I was buying into mediocre bands and soloists, these guys were making beautifully sublime music together. My newfound appreciation for this band is yet another sign that it's never too late to turn things around and it's sometimes worth it check out that band in the back of your memo pad.
First is the title track, ‘Beautiful'. Yes, this is a cover of the Christina Aguilera song by the very same name, but it's GOOD. What I appreciate about this song is that it doesn't come off as something they did just for the sheer novelty of doing it, they crafted it into something of their own and it turned out great. Lead vocalist, Eef Barzelay's fragile, John K. Sampson-like crooning handles the pop song with perfect pitch and feeling. The band's music sounds like it's being played right next to you giving a supremely live and warm feeling. This is hands down the best cover I've heard in the last two years.
The four other tracks on this EP all blend in together nicely. Two of the songs, the cozy ‘Nick Drake Tape' and the satiny Velvet Underground cover, ‘I'll Be Your Mirror' were recorded live on Vin Scelsa's Idiot's Delight on New York's WFUV 90.7 FM. For the first twenty or thirty listens, I didn't even realize that they were live recordings, I found out by reading the liner notes. Being one that doesn't really go for live recordings (c'mon, the sound usually sucks, the crowd's singing along, and the banter is usually cut out or shortened, I like banter, banter is good), I was both shocked and extremely impressed. Both songs are played and recorded very well, nice work, boys.
The studio songs aside from ‘Beautiful' are ‘Al Green' from the album ‘Soft Spot' and the unique ‘Mike Kalinsky'. Mike Kalinsky is a tale of a young man that the main character knew in school and forgot about until a chance occurrence brought him to the enigmatic young man. I need not spoil the surprise with this song, pick up the EP and find out the nice little gem in this ditty.
This EP blows a lot of LPs out of the water. Clem Snide surely knows how to craft soothing indie-folk/pop songs with a skill similar to Bonnie Prince Billy, The Weakerthans, and Matt Pond PA. You should be able to find this EP for around $4-6, it's worth twice that, pick it up, you won't be disappointed; I mean, have I ever steered you wrong?
- Philip Del Costello | 2004-03-03