I can imagine one hearing a basic description of Elliot Smith’s music and thinking “Dashboard Confessional” or “Bright Eyes” and being repulsed enough to instinctively revolve and hit the stop button in disgust and think less of your efforts to convert him into a more violet emotional creature like the girlie magazines say he should be in today’s world, but it’s really not that at all. Elliot’s more like that quiet humble guy who always got 90s and was a really talented writer in high school who got his girls but couldn’t get rid of his existential paranoia and delirium. He’s not Dashboard or BE, there isn’t the screaming croaking angst and panic of the latter or the ridiculous melodramatic bombast and self-importance of the former. He’s writing about past relationships and even topics like pain but he takes a literary, observational outlook lyrically and keeps the music to calming non-pulminary strumming. No slit wrists or quadruple bypass surgery needed here, just a lot of light cigarettes and half a bottle of scotch consumed to stay in perspective and not to forget her name and face or the past.
It’s the kind of romanticism that actually gives romanticism a good name. I’m sure we’re all sick to death of all the bullshit “She fucking hates me!” that we’re fed about how awful everything is. Let’s face it and all: relationships end, and when they do there may be a few days where your stomach physically hurts, and I’m not going to say those aren’t trouble, but afterwards there’s a lot more time spent in quiet, vague, cityborne regrets and sad little realizations. Speaking of which, it was my first serious girlfriend and thus far longest-lasting partner who introduced me to Elliott and, sad little Smashing Pumpkins fan I was at the time, I dismissed him as just another acoustic balladeer. Don’t be fooled! This music even calms down pets. Maybe not the best pump-up music, but who cares that one.
Not speaking of which at all, little’s annoyed me more recently than the incredible blinding fuck you fuck you fuck you ignorance of people who don’t drink or do drugs and accuse those who do of irresponsibility. Maybe it’s the Kerouac I’ve been ingesting recently or more likely it’s because it’s really fucking obvious that they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s like someone who’s never been to Prague saying Prague is boring. And even if they did go to Prague and were bored it wouldn’t mean that Prague was a boring city; maybe they were just boring PEOPLE who’ll never have the friends or daring to actually have an interesting time.
Complaints: “Drive All Over Town” more or less just repeats the title for 21/2 minutes over uninteresting chords. “Last Call” is the opposite lyrically of everything I did in exoneration over the first two paragraphs. “Roman Candle” is a little too, but it’s still not whine whine whine she left me, it’s more about the experience of love as involving pain and hope and what person who’s ever taken a few minutes to be introspective (and knows what they’re talking about by having actually been in a good relationship – looking at YOU) can agree with (at least at times). ‘No Niggers in Our Schools” seems really out of place thematically. And “Kiwi Maddog 20/20” is good, but given the incredible communicating power of words and the universality, semanticity and generativity of language who can really justify making instrumental songs? Note that I don’t completely mean that. I think Do Make Say Think and Tortoise are GREAT bands.
Pretty good album.