Wednesday, October 20th, 2004
A Fond Farewell
Elliott Smith’s last album, From A Basement On The Hill, came out yesterday. Elliott Smith died a year ago tomorrow. I remember being floored when I heard the news – if I’d heard it a year previously, when Smith had pretty much disappeared off the radar and there were rumours that he was in bad shape in regards to his drug use, I admit that I may not have been surprised. But throughout 2003 there were encouraging reports that he was clean, productive and hard at work on his new record – and then on the morning on October 21 on my usual rounds of the music news sites, there it was – “Elliott Smith dead at 34”. What the hell. And I still shudder when I think about HOW he died. If it was suicide, which still isn’t conclusive (though the last thing anyone needs is a Cobain-esque conspiracy theory), then the sheer violence of the act is still incomprehensible to me.
The San Francisco Bay-Guardian looks at the aftereffects of his death, one year on and talks to engineer Dave McConnell, who believes that Basement is not the album Elliott would have wanted. He says that the family-endorsed mixes stayed too close to Smith’s past works whereas he had intended the album to be a stylistic step forward. You can hear some of those more experimental tangents on tracks like “Coast To Coast” and “Shooting Star”, with their denser, rawer production values – even after being mixed and mastered under the ministrations of Smith’s family, they still stand in pretty stark contrast to the more conventional, prettier numbers on the record. Is this the direction that Smith would have ultimately moved in or just a detour in his musical path? We can only speculate. As it is, it’s difficult to listen to the record without considering the context of its creation, without hearing some manner of foreshadowing of his death. Grim, but true.
NPR also has an audio piece on Smith and the record, including interviews with many of the principals involved with preparing the final album for release. The Grand Rapids Press wonders if Smith’s death will overshadow his body of work. And as a final note, the Elliott Smith – Olympia, Washington live DVD which was supposed to come out November 30 has been postponed due to legal wranglings with Smith’s former label Dreamworks. What a surprise.
In talking about the release of Aimee Mann’s live album and DVD Live At St. Ann’s Warehouse on November 2, Chart reveals that her next studio album, King Of The Jailhouse, should be out in March of next year.
Season premiere of The West Wing tonight! Finally, something presidential that doesn’t make me want to gouge out my eyes with dessert spoons.
Kurt Vonnegut grills Kilgore Trout about voting, giraffes, and the tying of shoelaces. Trout then kills himself by drinking Drano.
Oh – and to the guy I made fun of earlier this week for getting to my site by Googling “odds of red sox winning from three nothing defecit”? I take it back.
np – Calexico / The Black Light