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Arts and Culture News

Tasting 'Bitter Honey,' Tongue in Cheek

Eef Barzelay knows how to mix humor and heartbreak. As leader of the band Clem Snide, he's sung from the perspective of folk-pop lightweight Jewel and conspiracy theorist David Icke, and he's concocted cello-tinged odes to the music of Nick Drake, the uncertainty of the future, and a life spent wasting away on the couch.

While he's at it, Barzelay frequently explores the dark underbelly of vanity, as his new solo album Bitter Honey finds him wishing that a loved one would die, "just to see how I would look." "The Ballad Of Bitter Honey" finds Barzelay adopting the persona of a scantily clad dancer in a hip-hop video featuring Ludacris -- within a few seconds he lays the groundwork for a tongue-in-cheek look at a show-business bit player.

But the singer's gift for intertwining wryness with warmth takes over by the second verse, as his subject's back story begins to fill out: a death in the family, a side road to nursing school, a philosophy of getting ahead in life. By the end, Barzelay finds appropriately bittersweet profundity in what had once seemed like a throwaway joke.

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