Elliott Smith
Roman Candle


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
September 14th, 2010 | 285 replies | 8,056 views


Release Date: 1994 | Tracklist


All things considered, I think my favorite song from Roman Candle is “No Name #4” because she finally leaves. We all know Elliott was often best when he (or his character; it’s no secret that the subjects in his songs were often veiled self-portraits) was sad, but even so the track is a thrilling moment of liberation--a painful relationship put on hold simply by the protagonist’s new-found ability to just pick up her shit and leave. She gets scared and comes back, but at least she now knows she can do it. She might even try talking to someone about it. Other than “No Name #4”, though, Smith’s characters seem stuck, an impression given off by both his lyrics and music--which makes these fleeting moments of freedom even more indelible. Take, for example, the title track: supplied with a disarmingly forthright refrain of “I want to hurt him / I want to give him pain,” the track lets us peek into a mind stuck with dark thoughts not only by repeating this assertion over and over but also dipping into murky dissonance as soon as the narrator lets us know “[he wants to] make him feel this pretty burn”. For those listeners who have been led by example by “No Name #4”, we want nothing more than for the guy to just take a walk outside and give it a good think.

All of the characters on Roman Candle are, indeed, Roman Candles themselves, with heads full of flames, just waiting to burst. As we all probably know by now, Smith’s ability to sympathize with or even embody these troubled characters was ultimately because he was one of them, a sad fact that would eventually explain the ending to his story, one even darker than any of the tracks here. However, back before this presented any real danger, it simply meant that Smith was one of the most intelligent and compassionate songwriters out there--a title he fully earned with Roman Candle. No matter what trials and tribulations each character is going through underneath, each song is strongly melodic and assisted by the comforting presence of Elliott’s whispery vocals and bare guitar playing. Though always simplistic, the songs here have their surprises: “No Name #2” features an upbeat, harmonica-assisted (nearly as instrumentally elaborate as the album gets) chorus which chillingly segues into a more emotionally ambivalent verse with the characteristic attention to detail Smith applies to every song of his--though, on first listen, it seems so casually tossed off that it may take a few listens to realize the genius. “Last Call” also expands Smith’s instrumental palette; in a constant build towards a devastating climax (“I wanted her to tell me that she would never wake me”), Smith finally just lets it rip on his electric guitar: the flames inside his head have finally burst. Instrumental closer “Kiwi Maddog 20/20”, though still excellent, is simply a comedown.

Though all songs are of interest, one other particularly catches my attention: “Drive All Over Town”. Coming right before the brief salvation of “No Name #4”, it’s about the abusive boyfriend spending his whole night trying to find her--a sort of “She’s Leaving Home” told from both sides of the story. Though the vaguely harsh imagery of “and he’ll drive all over town / until he tracks her down” may suggest that he’s searching because he’s blindly angry, it’s a testament to Smith’s power that, inside, we really, really wish that it’s because he loves her.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
BigHans
September 14th 2010



26455 Comments


Pretty awesome review.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 14th 2010



15019 Comments


i cant review anymore lol well this was a try

edit: thanks hans

Counterfeit
September 14th 2010



17819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

fuck yeah this album

Romulus
September 14th 2010



8423 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i actually really like this review. and the album too. i think i'm gonna bump it to a 4.5 cause i actually like it a bit more than the s/t

eternium
September 14th 2010



16338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Amazing review.

Counterfeit
September 14th 2010



17819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I got all of them at a 4.5 romrom, just need to figure out which one imma 5 xD

Enotron
September 14th 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

awesome album, good job man

Romulus
September 14th 2010



8423 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have Either/Or at a 5, this, Figure 8 and XO at 4.5 and the rest as 4s I think

Enotron
September 14th 2010



7695 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

also I appreciate the possible restraint you might've gone through to rate this an accurate 4.5

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 14th 2010



15019 Comments


"i actually like it a bit more than the s/t"

123

Tits McGee
September 14th 2010



1876 Comments


album is like, you know, really good. his best

eternium
September 14th 2010



16338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

His best is not a 4.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 14th 2010



15019 Comments


thus this is not a four! math! up yr goddam rating

NeutralThunder12
September 14th 2010



8742 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

i heard one track from each Smith album. The one I heard from this stomped every other song from the other albums I heard. Dont remember the name though

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 14th 2010



15019 Comments


title track, no names 1 2 4, and last call are the best




EVedder27
September 14th 2010



6088 Comments


stellar review, think I need to listen to this a bit more because this has clicked the least out of his albums for me

eternium
September 14th 2010



16338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

But this isn't his best. Or even top three. McGee said that it's his best and therefore his best is
a 4, in his opinion.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
September 14th 2010



15019 Comments


this is awesome tho cuz like ya

EVedder27
September 14th 2010



6088 Comments


no name #1 is prob a top 5 elliott smith song

Tits McGee
September 14th 2010



1876 Comments


McGee said that it's his best and therefore his best is a 4, in his opinion.


Yes. Trust me, I'm picky with how I rate things (hence why I have like 10 currently) so it's no biggy.



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