Friday, February 20, 2015

Elliott Smith - A Shot of White Noise

Elliott Smith, one of the few artists to be given the descriptive moniker "the fifth Beatle," is that of legends.  Helping found the indie genre along with Modest Mouse and The Shins in the early 90s, Smiths influence can be seen in many current acts.  His story is also one of the great musical tragedies, battling with alcoholism and heroine use through most of his career, his life seemed to amount to a balancing act between depressive drug use and meditating, emotive musical output.  And of course, one day in 2003, it was simply too much.

An ocean of unreleased material has been uncovered, from B-sides to radio sessions to demos to strange obscurities.  A Shot Of White Noise is named after the only live performance on the set, "Another Standard Folk Song" also known as Crazy Fucker.  The collection begins on a more cheerful, love-struck note and ends with the final haunting song he completed prior to his death, "Suicide Machine."

This is a representation of the pure genius of Elliott Smith, as this collection of some b-sides, outtakes, demos and a couple tracks from New Moon, could easily be compared to some of his greatest outings, Either/Or, XO, Figure 8, etc.  Though there are dozens more outtakes, much time and dedication was taken to select the absolute best (my opinion) of his outtakes to add to any Smith fan, as well as act as a good jumping point; An Introduction To Elliott Smith Through Rarities, you could say.

Elliott Smith - A Shot Of White Noise (37:33)

Side A:

1.  I Don't Think I'm Ever Gonna Figure It Out
2.  Either/Or *
3.  No Name #6
4.  Place Pigalle
5.  Grand Mal
6.  Another Standard Folk Song
7. Miss Misery *

Side B:

8.  Let's Turn The Record Over
9.  Figure 8
10.  Everything's Okay
11.  First Timer *
12.  Whatever (Folk Song In C) *
13.  Abused
14.  Misery Let Me Down
15.  Suicide Machine
* indicates track is from New Moon anthology

We begin with a lovely ditty that, though a b-side to Speed Trials, seems like it is more the sibling of Say Yes; a catchy, melody-driven love song that acts as a great opener.  The second outtake is also from Either/Or, but this time it is the self-titled track, which seems to be a theme for Smith, to omit the title track from the album.  No Name #6 is a well-known outtake that has some excellent vocals.

Place Pigalle was the original title track for Figure 8 (the name of the album was originally Place Pigalle), again being omitted from the album entirely.  It is among his most loved bootleg releases.  Grand Mal was the original name for the album XO, and again, when the name was changed, Smith seemed to omit the track.  Another fan favorite.  Next up is one of the live songs from the collection, which slightly mirrors Folk Song In C.  This song is also known as Crazy Fucker.  Side A finalizes with the acoustic version of Miss Misery from New Moon, in my opinion the more preferable version.

Side B begins with an outtake from Elliott's final album and posthumous release.  When From A Basement on the Hill was pressed, there were nearly twice as many songs from the sessions that were not included.  This lead many fans to believe that the album was meant to be a two-disc ordeal. 

Figure 8, is the eponymous track that again found itself on the cutting room floor.  Everything's Okay is another track left off of his last album and is a reworking of an earlier song called Pretty Mary K.  First Timer and Whatever are the same versions from New Moon.  First Timer was also reworked into a different song for Smith's last work.  Abused is probably the most famous song left off of From a Basement on the Hill.  It was obviously left out due to its depressing nature. 

One of my favorite unreleased tracks, a live radio recording actually, is the penultimate track on A Shot of White Noise.  One of those incredibly catchy melodies and an acoustic guitar.  We end with the last song Smith worked on, aptly and sadly titled Suicide Machine.  For how negative it is, it has a rather uplifting beat.  I'm sorry if putting it as the final song is inappropriate.

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