Eef Barzelay

Eef Barzelay is best known as the erstwhile leader of the power-pop combo Clem Snide, but with his first solo effort, Eef finds a new motif. Discarding the effusive sound associated with his day job, Bitter Honey is a low-key acoustic ramble that finds Barzelay shoring up his sentiments with true folk finesse. It's difficult to avoid the obvious comparisons — Harvest-era Neil Young on "Ballad of Bitter Honey" and "I Wasn't Really Drunk"; early Dylan in the spit and sarcasm of "Well" — but it's Barzelay's dark irony that underscores each of these outings. "I wasn't really drunk, I was just pretending/Because I wanted so much to feel the way you do," he mutters in the cynical sing-along "I Wasn't Really Drunk." "N.M.A." indicates his despair ("Nothing means anything anymore"), while "Well" reveals the bite in his barbs ("The thing you claim to hate, you do it very well.") There are some lighter moments as well — the sweet, reassuring "Little Red Dot," a hollow but hopeful cover of the Christmas carol "Joy to the World" — but overall this is a weathered and roughshod affair. All the credit is due the resolute and tenacious Eef for the effort.

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Lee Zimmerman