During the original recording sessions for Clem Snide’s Hungry Bird back in 2006, personal and financial conflicts eventually resulted in the dissolution of the sort-of legendary indie-rock band. Working with keyboardist Tony Hamel and brass player Roy Agee, spectacularly-named frontman Eef Barzelay completed work on the album after recording two terrific solo albums and a couple of independent film scores. With the remaining band members on board for the project and subsequent supporting tour, the lost Clem Snide album has now been found. Problem is, it just isn’t quite up to the lofty standards of their five previous efforts. Barzelay still gets off a few of his trademark one-liners (“Those who are the most afraid/Say courage is a sin” is the key line from standout “Born a Man”), but they’re better served on damning cultural indictments than on subtly ironic love songs like “Our Time Will Come” and “With All My Heart” that make up the momentum-less latter half of the album. There are moments of energy, such as the unexpected use of heavily distorted guitar breaks on “The Endless Endings,” and real inspiration, as when the band provides an instrumental backing to a spoken-word performance by poet Franz Wright on “Encounter at 3 AM.” But too much of the album feels like a half-hearted effort. On “Jews for Jesus Blues,” from 2004’s brilliant End of Love, Barzelay sang, “Now that I’m found/I miss being lost,” and that sentiment certainly applies here: Whatever mystique Hungry Bird may have held is diminished by the actual hearing of it. While having Clem Snide back is cause for excitement, the album that nearly killed the band for good probably wasn’t the best choice for a comeback vehicle.
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