If any single Clem Snide song defines the band's distinctive mood of mournful positivism, it may be End Of Love's "When We Become." Over rippling piano, a slow-country beat, and a quasi-gospel chorus, singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay preaches a sly bit of secular evangelism about the paradise that awaits us when we get over our self-delusions and "become what we're running from." If "When We Become" isn't the ticket, maybe the quintessential Clem Snide song is End Of Love's "Made For TV Movie," in which Barzelay conflates I Love Lucy with the gossip about Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz—"I hear he used to beat her like she was a conga drum," he sings—in order to make a larger point about how we're all in the same chocolate factory, watching the candy speed by too fast.
On 2003's winsome Soft Spot, Barzelay offered a set of remarkably beautiful, though uniformly muted, songs about becoming a father. End Of Love is largely a reaction to some recent deaths in the Barzelay family, yet it's more upbeat and uptempo. The album kicks off with the title track, a piece of jumped-up, guitar-driven indie-rock that urges listeners (or maybe Barzelay himself) not to be "apocalyptic," because "your pain's been done to perfection by everyone." The song ends with a funereal coda, complete with resigned brass hangings, setting up the follow-up track: The halting, rambling toss-off "Collapse" stumbles toward its arresting centerpiece—a guitar solo that's little more than one long, distorted note—and then closes with a few lines of sympathy for the broken. End Of Love's majestic opening triptych ends with "Fill Me With Your Light," which works through a loose intro before developing into one of the smoothest, most unshakeable songs in Clem Snide's whole heartfelt catalog.
Early in Barzelay's songwriting career, "heartfelt" would be about the last word anyone would associate with him, since his clever, pop-culture-bound lyrics and boho-country affectations sounded suspiciously insincere. But even at the beginning, Barzelay used smart lines to expose himself. And now, cutely titled End Of Love tracks like "The Sound Of German Hip-Hop," "Tiny European Cars," and "Jews For Jesus Blues" tell sketchy stories that describe moments of surprising awareness. "Jews For Jesus Blues" actually contains one of End Of Love's key lines: "Now that I'm found, I miss being lost." It's not the most key, though. That belongs to this "Fill Me With Your Light" statement of self: "I'm not convinced of anything I say."