Clem Snide's oblique lyricism, their skeptical suburbanism -- Barzelay knows he's middle class -- and their domestic reveries present an unlikely space for cultural critique. When Barzelay croons "Calgon take me away" on "American Chinese Secret Blues" or sings along to Joan Jett on the way to All-You-Can-Eat Night at Sizzler, he both means every word and can't believe he means it. If only there were a truer poetry, anything save all this brilliant transient junk, all these trivial but somehow essential moments inside our gawky, nervous, complicated lives.
"I'm never trying to fuck with people or be ironic," Barzelay says. "Irony is such an oversimplification. The songs are about balancing two contradictory things. The friction of it: That's the art. I'm not writing legislation or an article. It's the opposite. I'm presenting this space that hopefully is engaging enough that, when you hear the songs, you get inside them and complete them yourself."