Posted by: ben | October 5, 2009

music monday: clem snide’s ‘hungry bird’

Clem Snide - Hungry Bird

As Ben no longer has regular iPod access, he’s making do with one ‘big’ album a week, posting summary reviews every Monday. This coincides nicely with the #musicmonday meme on Twitter. How serendipitous!

Ben: There’s a long-running joke between Dan and I. Whenever we meet, we ask how the review of the last Clem Snide album is coming along. Released way back in the depths of the new year, Hungry Bird was the much anticipated album that, for complex label and legal reasons, was assumed to never be released. After we did the discussions of Franz Ferdinand and Andrew Bird, Hungry Bird was meant to be next on the list.

We never got round to it.

Consider this wee post a review in the memory of that never-written post, and hopefully an end to the stupid joke.

In all honesty, there’s a big reason why we never ended up writing about this one. Clem Snide – more accurately, singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay and a rotating grab-bag of musicians – have produced some of the finest music of the past fifteen years. At turns insightful, acerbic and witty, Eef’s songs are wonderfully inventive country-tinged tunes which no-one else seems to write nowadays.

If you’ve never heard any tracks from 1999’s seminal Your Favorite Music please do yourself a massive, massive favour and purchase it right now. It’s less than eight English pounds in most online retailers. You’ll thank me later.

As great as Your Favorite Music and countless other tracks scattered across half a dozen albums are, the legacy does not live on in Hungry Bird.

See, Hungry Bird was conceived as a big opus, something that Eef had been working on for years as opposed to most of his albums which are recorded and released in quick succession. Rather than being full of the peppy tracks he’s known for, pretty much every song on Hungry Bird is a bloated, meandering mess, with many retreading the same musical feel and tone. It’s easy to listen to the album and not think about where one track ends and another begins.

It does has its moments – Me No is a great opener and long-time live favourite Pray (For the Non-Believer) finally sees a proper release – but the rest is too inconsequential to really bother with. Pray is very nearly ruined too – about the faithful praying for their non-believing brethren to be punished by the divine, it’s all choral soundscapes and scathing lyrics for four and a half minutes. Though it effectively finishes at 4:35, still it trudges on with a slower, acoustic, boring and unnecessary coda until 7:57. The Franz Wright narrated Encounter at 3AM completes the trio of ‘good’ songs on the album. The rest, really, are immensely disappointing.

If you’re interested in Clem Snide – and you really, really should be! – don’t start here.



  1. Woah woah woah!!

    Apologies for that outburst, but while I mostly agree with you here, I have to add “Born A Man”, once you acclimatise yourself to this unsual-for-a-Clem-Snide-track tinkling piano I think it grows on you massively. It’s one of my favourites now, for the lyrics.

  2. ‘Born a Man’ is ok but it’s still trudgy, you know? It keeps endlessly slumping on to a pretty boring finish. Lyrically it’s very nice – and I like the unusual use of piano – but it’s production is messy and it’s still very aimless.

  3. Ah well I still like it.

    It’s good driving music. Though I suppose all music is good driving music for me at the moment now I can.

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