Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to make pop music that isn't popular. Not that End of Love, the fifth full-length by Clem Snide, abandons itself to the conceptual outback of art pop; instead, it continues the group's erratic, enthralling arc across old-school song wizardry and Costello-level wordplay. Clem's leader, Eef Barzelay, wheezes and warbles his way through yet another 11 tracks full of extended metaphors for truncated passions: Everything from German hip-hop and Jews for Jesus to Lucille Ball made-for-TV movies is set to a soundtrack of wistful indie rock and cheeky country.
As always, Barzelay's hooks are impeccably barbed, and his voice -- quivering somewhere between that of Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum and Silkworm's erstwhile whiner, Joel R.L. Phelps -- squirts the perfect mixture of blood and bile. Although Clem Snide has flirted with major-label success in the past, the band won't be making any inroads with End of Love -- but it's the perfect pop puzzle to unravel on those long, drunken, heartbroken nights.