After touring for Grace, tension between bassist Mick Grondahl and drummer Matt Johnson were overflowing. After particularly bad treatment by the entire band, including Jeff (who was still reaching up from his lowest point), Matt left the group at the end of the Australian tour of 1996. Grondahl was almost dismissed fromthe band by Jeff after a few demos for "My Sweetheart the Drunk" were recorded, and new drummer Eric Eidel was fired. It was the introduction of another drummer, Parker Kindred, which cemented the fact that Grondahl was indeed in alignment with Jeff and Tighe. A handful of songs on "Sketches..." were recorded as demos in New York with Eidel on drums, but after a particularly brilliant gig with Kindred, Eidel was officially ousted.
The band flew to Memphis to record more tracks, such as "Nightmares by the Sea" and "Everybody Here Wants You". After these tracks were "finished" the band decided to get together and listen to everything they had recorded to this point. Jeff was dissatisfied, and came to the conclusion that he would, at some point, go into the studio and erase all of the tapes. He never got the chance.
He told his band that he was dissatisfied, and needed a break, so he sent the band back to New York, while he stayed in Memphis. Jeff moved into an apartment by himself, and recorded a few more tracks by himself. These included "Gunshot Glitter", "Murder Suicide Meteor Slave" and "Demon John". These tracks were described by a friend of Jeff's as "the best work he has ever done. He is on the verge of his own Sgt. Peppers."
After 3 months of noodling and recording, Jeff decided to get back on track. He called the band back to Memphis, and an hour before the band members were due to arrive at his doorstep, Jeff and a friend went to the studio to jam. On the way home, Jeff went for a swim in the Wolf River, and was never seen again.
Note: these tracks are all taken from different places. Some recorded in demo sessions, some recorded on a 4-track at Jeff's home. Nothing was added to these songs after Jeff's death, and, as stated in the booklet for the album, "Jeff mumbles some lines, or forgets the words".
Track by Track Review:
01 The Sky is a Landfill
Starts with electric guitar, and the singing comes straight in after a strange riff. The lyrics are really great, and with lines like "throw off your shame or be a slave to the system", this song is so promising. This track was completely band recorded, and it is a really great track. A fantastic bridge is followed by an awesome soft part. Really really good opener. 4.5/5
02 Everybody Here Wants You
The single. This track is really beautiful, and has a strange feel to it. It is a strangely dancable song too. His voice goes really high in the chorus, and it is very very very good. What else can I say" 5/5
03 Opened Once
Jeff recorded this track himself, in the studio. The beginning of this track is almost 'Buckley of old', until we reach the chorus, which is differently graceful to anything on Grace. This track flows beautifully, and it is a really good soft track. The overdubbed vocals at the end are brilliant. 4.5/5
04 Nightmares by the Sea
The spookiest track on the album, and one of my favourites. The line "stay with me under these waves tonight" gets me every time. The song comes together beautifully, and the simple drumming keeps it all together really well. Another weird-ish verse riff, and a striving sound to the whole track. The bridge is so beautiful, and at this point, it's easy to see the Jeff never lifted the emphasis off and just "threw in a bridge part". 5/5
05 Yard of Blonde Girls
I have heard a few people that say this is the worst song on the album. It is not as good as most, but I still think it is good. It shows a different style, and is rather guitar heavy. A chugging riff carries the verses, which is really cool. To me, it shows a cooler, lighter side of Jeff. The "very sexy, ok, ok" line, is the coolest part. Jeff actually hid this song, as he knew the record execs would jump on it and want to release it as a single, which had happened to "Forget Her" in the Grace sessions, and Jeff ended up hating the song. Anyway, a rating. 4/5
06 Witches' Rave
A really nice start, into a drumbeat with simple guitar. We start to see the shape of Jeff's new work definately coming to light here. He really wanted to make an indie-rock album. The verses are dark, and the chorus is eerily happy. I really dig it. This song has an amazing Bridge part, and then changes up completely. 4.4/5
07 New Year's Prayer
An amazingly beautiful song. Jeff originally wrote a poem with the same, title, and implemented it into the road version of Eternal Life. The first time I heard this was on a documentary of Jeff's death. It is really spooky, but kind of uplifting. The vocals seem to take a back seat in this track, with repetitive lines, and beautiful melodies. 4.5/5
08 Morning Theft
Different timing makes this song sound urgent. It's so nice. This is my favourite track on the record. I would even go as far to say it's one of, if not my favourite Buckley track ever. The song reverberates so deeply to me, and it is stripped back and beautiful. His voice lifts to a fragile high in the second half, and lines like "I miss my beautiful friend", manage to bring me to tears. The instrumentation is perfect. 5+/5
An instrumental version of this floated around a lot on the Grace tour, but this version easily tops any of them. With added vocals, and the intense and urgent drumming, it is a strong beauty. Another really strong bridge makes this one ofmy favourites. 5/5
10 You And I
An incredibly bare track. All it is is a humming sound, or an organ, and Jeff's vocals. Spooky. Weird effects pop up every now and then. You expect the instrumentation to pick up many times, but Jeff's voice just keeps soaring shakingly above it. It's really nice. 4/5
01 Nightmares by the Sea
Simply a different mix of the same track on Disc 1. I'm really not sure why this track and the next were added. I suppose the mix is slightly different, but is better or worse in no way. Anyway, same rating goes. 5/5
02 New Year's Prayer
Same Goes. I think the vocals are different on this one though. 4.5/5
03 Haven't You Heard
The start of this track sounds very familiar. A quick introduction, which is sort of a cool verse leades into a sort of chorus. It is really great, and flows beautifully. The verses are messy as hell, and the chorus is clean with emphasis on rhythm. One part of the vocals is a tad weak, but that is forgiven, by the greatness of the part after it. This is one of the most "new buckley" songs. 4.5/5
04 We Could be so Happy Baby (If We Wanted to be)
Recorded on his 4-track at his home in Memphis. Three guitar parts overdubbed, and intertwining really really well with the vocals. The guitars are heavily distorted, and the chorus is very 'mood fits with lyrics'. He has thrown a bit of looping in here, and you can tell by the volume changes in the vocals that it has not been touched. The outro isn't particularly awesome. 4/5
05 Murder Suicide Meteor Slave
Creepy sounding guitar parts, again recorded by Jeff at his home. Really messy, relying on the vocals to keep it all together. It screws around a bit, but it has really beautiful moments. 3.5/5
06 Back in NYC
A cover of a Genesis track. I think he pulles it off really well. It's messy again, but Jeff is really getting it together, and this song becomes really amazing. After the verses, the first weird bridge/chorus sounding bit is incredible. This song really becomes something special. 4/5
07 Gunshot Glitter
This is a bonus track apparently, so some versions may not include it. I love this track so much. "Silence was insane, parting was mutual" is such a great line. This track continues to document Jeff's fascination with distorted indie-rock, and he again pulls it off well, with the vocals pulling everything up. Jeff pokes fun at himself in true Buckley style. Messy as hell though. 3.5/5
08 Demon John
Starts off with spoken words, and drifts into the song. This track is where disc 2 picks up again for me. This songs sounds more realized than the last few tracks, and it is really good. It's all clean, and recordedwith overdubbed guitars and stomping his foot on the ground. The bridge is cool as hell. 4/5
09 Your Flesh is so Nice
A really really strange song. I'm pretty sure jeff is just screwing around, but it's really cool. As you can probably tell by the title, the lyrics are weird. "Your flesh is nice ... let me take a bite". 4/5
10 Jewel Box
A clean song, stripped back, with wonderful lyrics. Really nice, and I just love it. 4.5/5
11 Satisfied Mind
Recorded live, but you can't really tell. This is an extremely brilliant cover, which I believe is just as good as Hallelujah. He sings it with so much conviction. What else can I say" 5/5
This is a brilliant album, in my opinion. It is easily dismissed by many as just a bunch of crap that Jeff messed around with, but the first disc in particular is pretty much a fully realized album. "My Sweetheart The Drunk" was going to be Jeff coming into his own, truly. The resulting "Sketches" of an album, are shadows of brilliance, and in many cases are brilliant all by themself. Most of the love songs on here are about Jeff's long time girlfriend Rebecca Moore.
I love the first disc alot more than the second, but it is all good. If I were to rate the discs seperately Disc 1 would recieve a 5/5, and Disc 2 a 4/5.
I give the whole album a 4.5/5
After six days in the water, Jeff's body had surfaced mere hours after his closest friends had left town. "It's almost as if he's spared them," says Nathan Larson. Also, he had drifted up to the slope of Beale Street, a symbol of both Memphis' heritage and American music. It felt like the final verse of a long and darkly poetic folk song.