Eef Barzelay | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Debut solo albums tend toward the personal and/or confessional, so it was reasonable to expect that the songs on Eef Barzelay's Bitter Honey (Spinart) would be more autobiographical than the ones he writes and sings for Brooklyn indie rockers Clem Snide. But he quashes that preconception with the disc's opening line: "That was my ass you saw bouncing next to Ludacris." Said ass belongs not to Barzelay but to a hip-hop video vixen who's a nursing-school dropout and the daughter of a cleaning woman; on "Ballad of Bitter Honey" she explains how and why she manipulates men. Barzelay gifts her with just enough self-consciousness to lock her insights between wisdom and rationalization, his empathy never waning. Bitter Honey is just Barzelay and his acoustic guitar, which means his vocals are even more of a take-it-or-leave-it proposition than usual. Me, I say his affectations are more supple, and the tension between his nerdy nasality and confident projection lends pathos to lines like "You looks so pretty when you have been drinking." Prior to last year's rocking and restless End of Love, Clem Snide had been growing quieter and more acoustic with each release, with Barzelay's lyrics growing sunnier and less incisive. Bitter Honey is quieter than any Clem Snide album, but it's less sunny too--the closing "Joy to the World" notwithstanding. The City on Film opens. Fri 4/21, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10.

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