Track This: Eef Barzelay's Love/Fear of the Unknown: "Could Be Worse" and "I Love the Unknown"

I've been a Clem Snide fan for a long time, enamored with Eef Barzelay's easy, literate lyrics and the band's indie country shuffle. They have released a number of solid albums over the years, and have now turned to putting them out digitally, recently releasing several fan chosen collections of covers. For my money the best albums are Soft Spot and End of Love, although I know that The Ghost of Fashion and Your Favorite Music are strong contenders. Eef's solo records present other sides of his songwriting that have been making their way into the later band output. The first is contemplative, while the second rocks like nothing else he has done.

For this edition of Track This, I wanted to review a track from his solo albums but had trouble picking one, so I chose two. The musically upbeat, yet lyrically down, "Could Be Worse" from Lose Big and the Rocket Science soundtrack cut, "I Love the Unknown." Both recognize Barzelay's ability to meld poppy, jangly music to sad sack balladeering like few others. "Could Be Worse" is guitar and drum heavy, riffing and rocking with the best of them. Eef sings, "I can't find comfort that it could be worse," and presents a laundry list of times that he pessimistically saw the world at its worst. He juxtaposes the good and the bad, singing "Show me the bright side / And I'll look 'til my eyes catch fire / And please forgive me if I leave you feeling uninspired." He seems the perennial wallflower and party wrecker: "I made your party guests feel bad /Could be I think too much /Or maybe I'm just cursed?" I've said it before and I'll say it again but like all good power pop movers and shakers, the song is really catchy even as its lyrics waiver. The song seems unfinished ending in a surprising chuckle.

"Could Be Worse" and "I Love the Unknown" both rely on Barzelay's ability to mix self-doubt and a heavy dose of self-loathing with the joy of self-discovery. Not unlike Mark Oliver Everett's work in the Eels, Barzelay wends his way through his songs like a manic-depressive who is trying to discover himself and leave his mark on the world. "I Love the Unknown" starts as a typical love song: "She asked him, "Why can't we not be together? ? Why is it we have to part? / Why do you leave with a stranger when I am revealing my heart?" The character's love for the unknown drives him away from people into new experiences. Barzelay sing-talks, telling the story of a character who cannot settle for what he is given. During the choruses, Barzelay switches to first-person before jumping back to third. The song is much simpler than "Could Be Worse," lyrically and musically, yet he is able to push forward the premise of uncertainty. Does the narrator really love the unknown or is he afraid of commitment? It's never too clear, and the joyous music appears to intimate the former.

Could Be Worse:

I Love the Unknown:

Track This is a recurring feature of Snobbin' that turns the music appreciation dial up and rips it off of your stereo. It attempts to introduce a new track, allow readers to rediscover an underappreciated track, or just serve as a forum to flat out discuss a track that falls into the ear candy category and should be listened to unabashedly for years to come.


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