Elliott Smith
Either/Or


5.0
classic

Review

by ClearTheLane USER (3 Reviews)
August 22nd, 2008 | 17 replies | 2,016 views


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist


9 of 9 thought this review was well written

It's 11:30 A.M. I wake up in a fairly strange bed. I soon realize that I'm in the basement of a friend's house, where a party had taken place the previous night. That comes as a relief, since I could have awoken to a bunch of cows mooing next to me in the middle of a soppy field. Or apparently, I also could have... nah, you probably don't want to know the other possibilities. Anyway, once I get enough of the minute of trying to make my mind work and the regretting of the weekend hobby I tend to have, I get up. At the staircase I hear a couple of mates laughing at me. Oh well, too bad I'm always the one. After finding my jeans and the worn-out shoes at the swimming pool, I head to the closest bus stop. Once I've got my place at the back, I assimilate how lucky I am to still find my best friend in my front pocket. It looks like a rainy day and I have a bloody headache. The journey is supposed to endure about 40 minutes. So my iPod makes the perfect choice, Elliott Smith's third solo album, Either/Or.

Song #1 on the playlist happens to be "Speed Trials". It is clearly the song that resembles the most of Elliott's first two albums. This can be, as a matter of fact, heard immediately. This is the sound that comes from his four-track recorder, that broadly speaking gave a very unique vibe to his songs. In this record, it turns out to be the only one to have that benign quality. Personally I love it, which is probably the main reason why his early work is to my mind the most pleasing. The song is most certainly about drug abuse, with its great explanation When the socket's not a shock enough/You little child, what makes you think you're tough” When the chorus (“It's just a brief smile crossing your face/Running speed trials all over the place”) is sang for the last time, the song fades out with his simple, delightful crooning. Every time I hear this part I feel like time stagnates just to esteem his voice. Once again, while ignoring obnoxious feelings, my body's adequate enough to give myself goosebumps.

There are numerous things that make Either/Or the most common favorite of Smith's fans. The first of those reasons that comes up after listening to his whole discography over and over again, is the mix of styles during the album. No songs sound similar, the problem that occurred on Roman Candle and the self titled. After the opener Elliott comes in with a very different song, although with the equally slow tempo. "Alameda", named after a small town in the coast of California, is another breathtaking ballad, that I usually listen to when I feel like someone who'll never accomplish anything. I'll mention the lines that end the song, the refrain of “Nobody broke your heart/You broke your own because you can't finish what you start”. Apart from these sad, slow paced acoustic songs that still cover Elliott's trademark, Either/Or consists a few fast poppy songs, that are remarkable for leaning more on catchy choruses. "Ballad of Big Nothing" and "Pictures of Me" are the two obvious ones, perhaps taking along "Cupid's Trick" that may have the album's catchiest part as its chorus. After listening to the 12 songs about a hundred times though, it may also abide as the most unsung.

In many songs Elliott's lyrics have signs of self-pity and depression. For example “I'd say it's a sight that's quite worth seeing/It's just that everyone's interest is stronger than mine/And when they clean the street i'll be the only sh*t that's left behind” from the underrated "Rose Parade". It's one of the most relaxing songs I have ever heard, with very simple acoustic guitar and drum beats. It is the follower of the 5th version of the No Names, a song that's rarely mentioned anywhere. I'd say it's one of those tracks you need to listen to more than ten times to get into completely. Either/Or contains also two tracks that have equivalent styles to the ones that can be heard in his later releases, XO and Figure 8, with background singing (by himself), as well as a modern type of production. These songs are "Punch and Judy" and "2:45 A.M." The latter develops from an emotional acoustic song into a loud Rock-song by adding a simply effective drum comp to the closing minute.

Three of the album's songs were picked up by Gus Van Sant to the both commercially and critically successful 1997 film Good Will Hunting. This gave Elliott the most important step towards fame in his career. He even got an Oscar-nomination, and although he lost it to the “wonderful” voice of Celine Dion, he was the one recognized by public. Anyway, one of the songs featured in the movie is "Between the Bars" which may well be his most played song. The other two, can be found in the top 5 as well. This song, is in my opinion one of the most beautiful songs ever written. It's extremely simple and brief, but consists so much emotion a song possible can. The lyrics are once again depressing, being about alcoholism. The way Elliott warbles “Drink up, baby, look at the stars/I'll kiss you again, between the bars” is just brilliant. "Angeles" is another one of his widely recognized songs, including maybe the best fast paced acoustic intro ever. Everyone should hear it at least once in a lifetime, its beauty is nearly undescribable. It is also featured in the end of the movie Paranoid Park (that I recommend being one of my favorite films). The album's closer on the other hand is actually the only song that has at some point a happy and optimistic atmosphere. While I get ready to get off the bus at the railway station, I realize how well it fits to my feelings at the moment. “A happy day and then you pay/And feel like sh*t the morning after/Situations get f*cked up and turned around sooner or later/And I could be another fool or an exception to the rule/You tell me the morning after”. The masterpiece has come to a close, I'm in central Helsinki. I look at all the people walking around, passing by. And I'm thinking how lucky I am to have experienced this. Then I look at the grey sky, before smiling and saying 'yes' to myself.

Elliott also defined “solo album” by playing every instrument on the record. He dominated with the guitar and his overwhelming vocal folds, but he was also proficient at piano, clarinet, bass, drums and harmonica. Some of them weren't included in this album, but Either/Or may still be the best proof that he was one of the most talented songwriters ever noticed. Although the album's genre is usually considered as Indie rock, it doesn't sound at all like any other artist of the music sector, Smith's music is in my opinion too unrivaled to be compared to anything. This record's 12 songs make it clock at only 37 minutes, and they're barely the tenth of the essential songs he wrote in his lifetime even though he died at a very young age. There were B-sides from the album included in his posthumous collection New Moon, and hearing the brilliant quality of some of them, I cannot figure out why there weren't more tracks in this final work. Fortunately the songs included are all amazing in their own way, which makes this in my eyes a masterpiece.


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Comments:Add a Comment 
ClearTheLane
August 22nd 2008



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It's very likely that I will edit this review later, so please if you can tell me how I could make it better. English is my second language, and although I think it should be pretty good I might have made a few mistakes.
I also want to add that the "story" is true. It makes the review a bit weird, but I wanted to make something slightly special
Vote and comments are very appreciated ;)


ClearTheLane
August 22nd 2008



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

My track ratings (After hundreds of listens):
Speed Trials 5/5
Alameda 5/5
Ballad of Big Nothing 4,5/5
Between the Bars 5/5
Pictures of Me 5/5
No Name #5 - 4,5/5
Rose Parade 5/5
Punch and Judy 4,5/5
Angeles 5/5
Cupid's Trick 4,5/5
2:45 A.M. 5/5
Say Yes 5/5This Message Edited On 08.22.08

Wildcatforever
August 22nd 2008



441 Comments


cool review; listening to XO right now.

timbo8
August 22nd 2008



618 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nice review. He's one of my all time favs.This Message Edited On 08.22.08

SynGates
August 22nd 2008



2467 Comments


Sounds like your english is fine. XO is my favorite Elliott though.

ClearTheLane
August 22nd 2008



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

XO is my favorite Elliott though.

yeah well, all of his albums are awesome. It's just that I love even more the depressing acoustic-Elliott, that means especially his first 3 albums. XO has some of my fave songs as well though, like Independence Day or Pitseleh.

Doppelganger
August 22nd 2008



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

amazing album

ClearTheLane
August 22nd 2008



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

amazing album

Sure is
but what about the review..
I'm deseperate for criticism

Doppelganger
August 22nd 2008



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I haven't taken the time to read it yet, but I will when I get home. I'm kind of at "work" right now and just skimming through stuff.

ClearTheLane
August 22nd 2008



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

OK, I understand. But please remember to read it then ;)

Doppelganger
August 22nd 2008



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Will do.

Monokid
August 22nd 2008



8 Comments


Damn great review.. the first paragraph def. was weird but it actually made me laugh.
Don't remember at all how Speed Trials sounds, I'll check it out. Or I'll do that for the whole album. I've heard it all but I'll rate this after the next listen 'cause it's been such a long time.

ClearTheLane
August 22nd 2008



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

thanks mate. yeah I hope you'll give it the right rating, 5/5 =D

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2008



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review.

Doppelganger
August 23rd 2008



3124 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Review's good. The wording in the first and last paragraphs is a little awkward though.

ClearTheLane
August 23rd 2008



990 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Review's good. The wording in the first and last paragraphs is a little awkward though.

Thanks, but what u mean they're awkward?
Should I change them in some way?

rhcp pman
September 24th 2008



12 Comments


Very nice review - I like the opening paragraph too. :D

Rose Parade is one of my favourite ES songs.



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