Tractor Beam is proud to announce that Clem Snide’s “You Were A Diamond” the band’s debut album originally recorded in 1997 and released 1998, will be released on vinyl for the first time on November 18, 2016 via Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records. Pre-order the album here.
“You Were A Diamond” with songs by Eef Barzelay and featuring sounds by sonic sound-smith / cellist / multi-media artist Jason Glasser, was engineered and produced by Adam Lasus (Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Anders Parker, Space Needle,Helium) and Martin Brumbach (Hal Wilner, Idaho, Eef Barzelay).
**Excerpt from interview conducted a few years back w/Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records founder & CEO Mike Turner for article about the label called HHBTM Records: 10 Years Of Angst & Regret.**
Q: So given that you were already hanging out in Athens a lot, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea must have been a big deal for you when it came out.
Mike Turner: Not really. At the time, I was just completely obsessed with this record by Clem Snide called You Were a Diamond that to me just did everything Neutral Milk did, but did it so much better. More heartfelt, more raw. In fact I actually kind of slammed the Neutral Milk record in my zine because there seemed to be all this hype behind it while this other record that I loved so much was just getting brushed aside. But of course I kept hearing Aeroplane everywhere I went and eventually yeah it clicked with me and I realized it was brilliant and everything people say it is. So yeah, I guess I felt a little embarrassed about that.
Q: Embarrassed because you’d said Clem Snide’s record was better?
MT: No. I’ve never been embarrassed about that. That record’s amazing. It still kills me that nobody seems to know about it
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Some records you put out because you like them, some records because you love them, and some records you put out because it’s an obsession and you want the whole world to hear this thing that has so much to offer.
You Were A Diamond is a record that is both haunting and haunted (that cello, the way it mimics the scraping of fragmented skull against fragmented brain). Like paintings done on glass instead of canvas, fragile and yet somehow more luminous. Clem Snide’s music is impossible to reduce to a literal description—can’t call it alt-country when there’s a cello, call it lo-fi even though you’re able to hear every note, call it folk, even though there is a predominant electric guitar. All of this adds up to the most unlikely of sonics. Call it Clem Snide.
Or maybe call it the missing link between John Cale and Hank Williams.
Even the band name, Clem Snide, sounds like a demented Flannery O’Connor character, But it’s actually from a William Burroughs novel. Urban Gothic?
And then there’s the songs. ‘Better’ is a song of staggering empathy. The way Eef Barzelay urges his (friend? love? self?) to take off their sweater because it’s warm outside, but—and this is the difference between lyrics & singing—the way he strings out ‘waarrrrm outsIIIDE’ is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. And then there’s ‘Nick Drake Mixtape,’ and oh my god ‘Your Night To Shine’ with its lines about mustard gas and blood in the lungs. How have these songs not appeared in every film? Every poignant moment portrayed on TV? How can something this powerful—this warmly bleak, this achingly human—be so overlooked?
You Were A Diamond didn’t go completely unheard at the time (even Pitchfork eventually called it ‘a beautiful and gently melancholy album that crawls under your skin’), but it doesn’t get talked about now. Which makes sense, in a way.
The world still isn’t ready for Clem Snide because the world remains as broken, unjust and fucked-up as it’s been since the day Clem Snide was born. And we’re all still too afraid of what might happen if even for an instant we stopped smiling in public, and so we spin on ever-faster in this never-ending carnival ride of desperate apocalyptic joy. But if we would just be real for a second about the anxiety & pain of being alive, then Clem Snide would be indispensable even though in a sense they already are.
A bit of Early history from Dan Efram (Tractor Beam)
I met the band Clem Snide in Boston circa 1991. Their brash style at the time represented more prog/art rock than what would develop into alt-roots. After moving to NYC, I heard from Eef Barzelay a few times and received their latest cassette which included solo demos of many of the songs that would end up on Diamond. After leaving a record label job at Zero Hour Records where I helped to work on and sign artists I loved (i.e. Swervedriver, Notwist, Varnaline, Anders Parker, Space Needle, Dirt Merchants, The Black Watch), I decided that Clem Snide would be a great next project to help develop. Eef’s songs were unmistakeable and I was determined to do my best to bring their sound to the world.
Besides signing on for management, I helped to fund “Diamond” with producer Adam Lasus. From the very beginning, this album was a labor of love. Its vibe, created at Lasus’ Fireproof Recording in barren, isolated Red Hook, Brooklyn circa 1997/8 was hard to get to, but once there it was isolated enough to give the band time and space to make this masterpiece. I’m proud to have helped launch my new label and their career with it.
Shortly thereafter, the band was signed to Sire Records by none other than Seymour Stein (Madonna, Ramones, Talking Heads), on the strength of Diamond. Though in the end this deal nearly ruined the band, having Seymour Stein woo us by singing old country and western songs to us – unaccompanied in his office – felt like a pretty big deal at the time.