Review Summary: Smith makes a case for himself on this album as being one of the most important artists of the late 90's, and maybe, simply, the best single artist of this generation.7 of 8 thought this review was well written
Elliott Smith, the tragic figure so many of us have grown to love. You know the story, at the young age of thirty-three, Smith stabbed himself to death after a fight with his then girlfriend. Many fans at the time wondered how his music would live on, when he wasn’t. How could you blame them, this isn’t Nirvana after all. Smith did not change the music scene, he did not sell millions of records, and of course he did not win many awards. No, all Smith did was make classic pop songs and create a die hard fan base of gloomy teenagers and intellectual twenty some things.
It is only a few years after the mans death, so of course it is hard to tell how his message will be perceived in ten or so years. However when a person sells more after death then when he was alive, you have to take notice of his or her importance to music. What better case for this, is 1997's Either/Or? An already respected musician, and had so much indie cred that it was probably seeping through records, Smith came out with his best work yet, and to date.
The album starts off with a song that sums up Smith and what he tried to convey with his song writing. Speed Trials is a favorite of many fans, and listening to it, you can hear why. With Smith’s gentle voice rambling off some of the most impressive lyrics on the album, over a simple but very catchy guitar performance. Drums add tremendously to this track, giving Smith seemingly more rhythm and he gets to show it off. Some of Elliott’s songs sometime lacked focus when he is the only one playing, this doesn’t happen a lot mind you, but listening to him you tend to find spots where he needed a push in the right direction. This does seem to happen in Between The Bars, the song tends to drag on, and with little structure at that. When looking for a bad point on the album, this would be it, however it is still a solid track, although not as good as the rest of the album.
Elliott Smith seems to get more attention for his slower ballads then his faster songs. This could be good or bad, but Smith had great faster paced songs, and Pictures Of Me is a perfect example. The song starts with Smith just picking at the strings, but soon turns into a Smith playing over a drummer once again, which seems to be a must for this type of song for Smith. Lyrically the song hits the high points of Smiths career, however the guitar work is a little lacking, and can become boring at times. Although it is a great song, Smith could have went a little deeper in that area, but in the long run, the lyrics and drumming still make for one hell of a tune. Say Yes seems to be another song that uses the same formula, but with few differences. As in Smith toning his voice down a bit, and without a drummer to back him up. The guitar work on this track may be the best on the album, and shows off Smiths talent at the instrument. One of Smiths many songs that sounds like it could have been a top forty smash hit, but of course it was not.
Smith has many classic songs, and with so many truly great tracks, picking a favorite of course is not easy. This, being this reviewers favorite of Smiths albums, only seems fitting my favorite track appears on the album, and it does. 2:45 AM, may not be Smiths best known song, or many fans favorite, but the emotion and power that pours from this song is amazing. Smith provides an intense experience through his brilliant guitar playing and easily best vocal performance on the entire album. The lyrics make the song come alive, and always make me go back to it. Smith writes, “I’m going out sleepwalking, where mute memories start talking” and “with hidden cracks that don’t show, but that constantly just grow” make this song Smiths best piece of work. Simply put, a haunting song that just keeps reminding me of Smiths immense talent.
The album is not perfect, no album is, but it is as close to perfect as any album made in the last twenty or so years. Without even a single bad song, Smith makes a case for himself on this album as being one of the most important artists of this generation, and maybe, simply, the best single artist of this generation. Elliott Smith will never be a household name, but the number of tribunes alone show off how important he was to music in the late 90's and early 00's. There is no telling where is legacy will end up, maybe he will be forgotten in the grand scheme of things, or maybe he will be remember for what he was, a singer that had a knack for writing a great pop song, and really, who could ever ask for more then that?
- Skillful lyrically.
- Simple but very good guitar work.
- Vocals are well done.
- Loss of focus at moments.
- 2:45 AM.
- Pictures Of Me.
- Speed Trials.