Finally got around to looking at this Jon Brion Show lost episode that Paul Thomas Anderson just posted, which I assumed would be the same leaked pilot I’ve had on my hard drive for years. Turns out, nope: that was the scrapped Vh1 pilot, this is one of three test shows PTA shot in Ocean Way Studios on his own dime that nobody knew about until right now. And very likely the only existing footage of Elliott Smith and Jon Brion, both at the height of their powers, playing together. Being pals. Making jokes. It’s fucking wonderful. I’m going to watch it every day for a year. If you’ve never been to Largo to see Jon, it’s still exactly like this.
He gave me nothing but grief and some bullshit story only I would believe. I’ve heard quite enough. You’re on it all the time. And you’re full of it all the time.
Elliott Smith - No Confidence Man
Now that we can share the complete-ish history of recorded music on our stupid blogs, here is my favorite song of all time.
Submitted by tuesdaycommuter.
Drove by this last night and it made me so happy.
Elliott Smith with Rose Melberg - “The Biggest Lie”
For me, this is as good as music can possibly be. My two favorite artists ever.
Elliott Smith, from the October 30, 2010 issue of NME (He’s on the cover!). If you believe like I do, that beauty radiates out from the inside of a person, then Elliott was truly beautiful. Such a kind, wonderful soul who made such great music and left us far too early. I miss him.
This is something I worry about a fair amount; he’s my favorite musician ever and, to me, is on such a higher plane that anyone else that it’s a crime for him not to be hailed with godlike appreciation at every turn. And yet, Bon Iver probably sells more than this new greatest hits/”introduction” set will, which makes me angrier than metaphors can adequately express.
What’s less bothersome but still confounding is how fumbling every attempt at writing about him has been in the last few years, as if all there is to say is “Untimely/mysterious death! Saaaaadness!” or respond with backlash to those things, instead of addressing the (totally fascinating!) evolution of Smith’s career, the continuing value of his musicianship and lyricism, etc. So I’ll go ahead and pick on Pitchfork’s coverage again here, because their readership is the most likely group to 1) be potentially interested in Smith’s music 2) be too young to have caught him in the late ’90s, or even upon his 2003 death.
There’s only so much you can say in a few paragraphs, but especially in a review of an album billed as an “Introduction” to Smith, the writer should offer the same — Mark Pytlik’s review of the album, which, hilariously, is the highest score any Smith album has on the site — is sympathetic and true enough in its broad strokes, noting that the musician’s appeal stems equally from his musicianship, lyricism and emotionally staggering vocals. But beyond that, the review misses the details or focuses in on the unimportant: An opening graf about Tupac and Cobain and Buckley? Seven years after his death? C’mon, guy! And then, this: “His real-life meekness, softness, and raw emotion never demanded or required anything as tragically operatic as cavernous reverb, barbed wire guitars…” he writes, before saying he was “arguably at the peak of his powers” during his DreamWorks years — the years he embraced cavernous reverb, barbed wire guitars and the widescreen ambition of his heroes, the Beatles. To be fair, yes, his songwriting never required those things — but they’re as much a part of who he was as a musician and what he chose to be (regardless of who was doing the funding) as his intimate solo performances.
And there’s a reason Smith chose to embrace the acoustic guitar as the center of his sound: He played for years in punk/alternative act Heatmiser, recording three albums and an EP concurrently with his early solo material, and wanted to step away from that. (As if his first three albums aren’t impressive enough by themselves.)
Re: this particular collection, I imagine it’s heavy on “Either/Or” because those are the songs that won Smith fans the first time, when they were included on the “Good Will Hunting” soundtrack — but also because Kill Rock Stars likely doesn’t have the funds to splurge on the inclusion of more tracks from the DreamWorks era, now owned by Interscope. This also would’ve been a good opportunity to mention the tricky label situation (which KRS is nobly trying to remedy) that’s keeping the remainder of Smith’s unreleased material locked in uncaring major label vaults, as well.
To Pytlik’s credit, this is the best review Pitchfork’s ever given Elliott Smith; for probably the first time ever, it reads as the work of a genuine appreciator. But there’s just so much to what Smith was, and what he remains, that asking for an equal critical engagement feels only right.