I haven’t worked in the traditional sense that employed people work since mid-June 2008 when motor neuron disease helped me slam close the door on my eight year teaching career. Sure, I’ve been busy writing two blogs and outlining my memoir, but neither of those pursuits have been anything more than a labor of love. (Of course, if anyone out there has the means to turn my written words into a paying gig, I would certainly love to hear from you). Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that while I’ve been keeping myself occupied these past several months, I’ve kind of lost touch with what it takes to be productive at a job. Simply stated, I have forgotten what it felt like to actually work.
But that all changed this past Friday when I received a package in the mail. As soon as the padded envelope was opened, I knew it was time for me to get to work. I only had one problem with my new assignment: since I had never done this type of job before, where do I begin?
It all started a few weeks ago when this guy named Bruce posted a comment on my blog. Apparently, Bruce was connected to a singer/songwriter named Eef Barzelay, who, in turn, was the beating heart behind the semi-famous indie rock band called Clem Snide. In his comment, Bruce asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the band’s soon to be released cd. Not being the kind of guy to turn down free music (or a new endeavor such as music reviewer), I quickly said yes to his offer and waited patiently for the special delivery.
Now, I am no stranger to reading music/record/cd reviews, being a longtime subscriber to both Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone magazines, but I am an absolute and utter newbie when it comes down to actually writing one. I noticed that most of the reviews I had read drew some comparison between the artist’s new offering and their subsequent efforts but I took a leap of faith and made the assumption that most, if not all, of my readers had yet to encounter the clever and ironic song-stylings of Clem Snide on their musical journeys through life thus far. So if comparing songs from the new disc to songs from the band’s previous five releases was out, I needed to figure out another angle.
So I slid the cd in the computer, placed my headphones over my ears and I listened.
I listened to the disc beginning to end, three times in a row, as I was surfing around the net. Then I went track by track, four to five times each, analyzing the lyrics and the music and feverishly jotting down notes (much to the amusement of my rather rude cubiclemate). I even brought the record with me to acupuncture (it didn’t skip, Bruce), and after a brief conversation with acupuncturist extraordinaire Jen, I was finally ready to write my review.
A review of Clem Snide’s Hungry Bird by Jason Picetti
When it comes to listening to a song, I’ve heard it said that you are either a music person or a lyrics person. Some folks enjoy what a tune has to say lyrically more than what it says musically while others are so enamored by the groove and feel of a song that they practically have no idea that words exist. Personally, I have always been a music guy. Sure, there are plenty of songs out there that I appreciate primarily for the lyrics, but for every one of those I know, I can name ten that I dig the music more. For me, first and foremost, it has always been about the music.
But that fundamental bias changed when I heard Hungry Bird, the new album from Clem Snide. The words and lyrics and images are so engaging and captivating and thought provoking that, as a listener, I found myself happily replaying each track to afford myself the opportunity to explore the depth and richness of the poetry echoing in my ears.
And please don’t misconstrue my praise of the lyrics as a condemnation of the music, for quite the opposite is true. The music is as subtle and nuanced and delectable as the words are and the music provides a true compliment to the lyrical complexity of the album as a whole.
To me, listening to Hungry Bird is not unlike curling up with a good book or sitting on the couch under a blanket watching a cool movie on dvd. (By good book, I mean not a 52 week bestseller and by cool movie I mean not a mega blockbuster). From the almost primitive feel of the opening cut “Me No” to the reverent sadness of “Burn the Light” to the poignant track “Pray”, this record kept me on the edge of my seat, turning the pages to get to the end, in order to see how it turned out. While ultimately, my idea of what it all means may not be correct, you can be certain that I will listen to this album many times in the foreseeable future.