A Tired Man With Only Hours to Go

October 8, 2010

Elliott Smith

Either/Or

(1997)

            More in the “people who may have killed themselves in the ‘00s” department, Elliott Smith was more or less a shoe-in for suicide along the lines of Mr. Cobain.  The two men had other things in common as well:  both signed to pseudo-alternative labels hoping to make something of themselves only to have things go a little too well and both were responsible for popularizing “indie” aesthetics.  While Nirvana married metal and power pop, Elliott Smith combined modern rock with folk and created a sound that intrigued both Beatles fans and mopey kids alike.  Of course, Smith didn’t invent the sound but when one puts it in the context of Smith’s solo material having been around the same time as the birth of grunge, it certainly makes one realize what he was up against.

            Either/Or opens with the biting “Speed Trials,” which could be about heroin but that almost seems too obvious.  Other songs tell similar tales of frustration and disgust such as “The Ballad of Big Nothing,” and “Pictures of Me,” but the tunes are wrapped up in catchy packaging. 

            The ‘90’s seemed to be filled with tragic heroes and you couldn’t be cool unless there was something troubling about you.  If Smith were still alive today, chances are he’d be making the same music and people would have stopped caring.  Instead, the man lives in infamy.

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