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Bitter Honey (Redux)

Eef Barzelay

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Album Review

Clem Snide is often seen — justly or not — as a vehicle for the songs and singular voice of Eef Barzelay. Bitter Honey finds him out on his own for the first time, and it truly is a solo album — as it features just his voice, an acoustic guitar, and the usual balancing act of quirkiness and heartbreak. Lyrically, there are a couple of tunes that tip the scales a bit too much on the quirky side, like the opening "Ballad of Bitter Honey," which casts the singer as a female hip-hop groupie and contains the timeless rhyme "That was my ass you saw bouncing next to Ludacris/It was only on-screen for a second but it's kinda hard to miss." That's really a tough way to start an album, but Barzelay recovers with some typically fine songs — the desolate "Words That Escape Me," the tears-in-my-beer ballad "I Wasn't Really Drunk," the spare and yearning "Escape Artist Blues" — that are as moving and arresting as his best work. His cover of "Joy to the World" is nice, too. The musicians who back Barzelay in Clem Snide are an underrated strength of the group, and about halfway through this record you start to miss their usual subtle and rich backing. It would have been nice to hear what they would have done with "Ballad of Bitter Honey" or the vaudeville-styled "Let Us Be Naked." That is a minor qualm, though, and the album is so short in length that it never wears out its welcome. It doesn't rate with the best of Clem Snide, but Bitter Honey is a pleasant diversion and a nice way to fill the space between the group's releases.

Biography

Born: Tel Aviv, Israel

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Nashville-based Eef Barzelay is the frontman for Clem Snide, an alt-country/indie band that issued a handful of records in the '90s and 2000s, as well as provided the theme music for the television show Ed. Barzelay formed the band in 1991 and briefly disbanded it in 1994. Clem Snide regrouped a few years later and released their first album in 1998. The band signed on with major label Sire for their second record, but was quickly dropped before...
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Bitter Honey (Redux), Eef Barzelay
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