Elliott Smith – Rares, Singles & Covers

Hey, if this looks like it’s walking funny, that’s because it’s got boot legs, and yes, this is a lengthy compilation of often barrel-scraping outtakes. But we’re fans, damnit, and we want this stuff! 32 gosh darned tracks! So what do we get for our convenience?
Well, in short: a couple great songs that later turned up on New Moon, a couple singles presented in their released form, a couple instrumentals, a bunch of usually pretty good outtakes, and lots of early versions of songs, with weight given to the singles, but there’s lots of other stuff here too. Releases get far more barrel-scrapey than this.
In long:
1. The beautiful “Angel In The Snow” – it’s great! And also already on “New Moon!”
2. A one-minute acoustic version of “Baby Britain.” Sounds like a guy jammin’ in the name of the acoustic sads.
3. A “remix” of “Baby Britain” that sounds just like the album version. This one’s never been my favourite ES single – not memorable enough, and the jingle-jangle vibe has never made me feel too jingly or jangle.
4. A cover of The Beatles’ “Because.” That’s nice, but since it sounds just like The Beatles’ version, I’m not sure why we need Elliott Smith to remind us that the world is round, among other revelations.
5. “Between The Bars.” Just like it always is. I guess it was a “single,” but I don’t think that merits okay okay I’ll let it go. Always nice to hear this ol’ ode to being a sad alcoholic!
6. A demo of “Bottle Up and Explode” that reminds one that at one point it had synth keyboards only, and the same melody. Great melody – but not the best lyrics ever – always bothered me the way he pauses between syllables in “explode” like nobody ever would. Like most songs, better with guitar and drums, but still a neat listen.
7. A cover of “Concrete Jungle” by Mob Barley, on acoustic guitar! Pretty good, but quite low quality.
8. A mediocre outtake called “The Enemy Is You.” Meh.
9. An acoustic demo of “Everything’s Okay” that’s pretty nice, but everyone writing sad songs needs to stop mentioning sad clowns as a symbol of pathos because it makes me snicker EVERY TIME.
10. The rightfully long lost title track of “Figure 8,” which is just over a minute long and mostly features noodling and explaining the shape of a Figure 8 and some basic math. Sample lyric: “Figure 8 is 2 times 4 / 4 times 4 is two times 8” – sung all-seriously.
11. An acoustic version of the great “Happiness” from Figure 8. Nothing snarky to say about this one! She’s a keeper.
12. A chugging rock outtake called “How To Take A Fall.” 6/10.
13. The decent “I Can’t Answer You Anymore.” 6/10.
14. A schmaltzy piano take of “I Didn’t Understand.” I “didn’t understand” why this is here! …I’ll show myself out.
15. An untitled instrumental. Boy howdy. I “didn’t understand” why thi
16. The acoustic “Let’s Get Lost,” which annoys me for some reason.
17. The Son Of Sam B-Side “A Living Will,” which is good if you like hearing Elliott sounding really musically upbeat (kinda like the Eels in execution).
18. An acoustic version of big single “Miss Misery” that reminds me that I have always thought it a bit too direct (but still really good).
19. A piano version of big single “Miss Misery” that doesn’t really yank my crank.
20. “No Confidence Man,” which is pretty great, and I don’t even need to fucking tell you why.
21. Better-than-the-last instrumental “Our Thing.” Golly, does his voice and cadence ever work well with just an acoustic geezer.
22. A lo-fi version of New Moon’s great “See You Later.”
23. A neat but overlong and overly lo-fi collaboration called “Shytown.”
24. The brief, pissed-off druggy B-Side “Some Song,” from way back in the day. The most Smashing Pumpkins the Elliott Smiths ever got!
25. The catchy rockabilly “Splitsville.” This one’s a bemused old dusty gem, though what’s with the lengthy boring outro? But other than that, the most Ramones the Elliott Smiths ever got!
26. and 27. Two nearly identical versions of the just decent outtake “Stickman.” A bit too direct on the ol’ whiny self-loathing, and it’s too slow and hookless, and two versions together aren’t the greatest idea for a fun way to spend ten minutes.
28. The fantastic (but available on New Moon) cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen.”
29. An acoustic “Trouble” – hey, pretty nice.
30. An acoustic demo of “Twilight” from FABOTH, which never impressed me to begin with – not enough fucking happens, guy! And the melody is too relationship-emo, which is the wrong kind of whining for mine ears.
31. “Happiness.” Yes, that was a nice song, but everyone who knows Elliott knows it. Somehow I have a version of it without the noodling at the end, but I’m not sure where I got it. But hey, still nice!
32. An acoustic version of the single “Son Of Sam.” Unlike many of his songs, this one actually worked much better with the band instead of just acoustic, because the band carries the main hook.
So there’s a lot! But I’d give it a definite go. I did, and look where it got me!

…I’m so lonely.

8 / 10

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