Kill Rock Stars Reveals ‘Some Song,’ A Live Track From Elliott Smith’s Upcoming Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition
Last month, Kill Rock Stars announced the expanded 25th Anniversary Edition of Elliott Smith’s self-titled album, an album first released in 1995, and stated that the remastered LP would come with a bonus disc of Elliott’s earliest known recording as a solo act, his performance at Portland’s café and ‘art salon’ Umbra Penumbra. Today, ‘Some Song,’ a track of this previously unreleased live performance from September 1994, was made available, and even though bootlegs of this show have been circulating among fans for decades, you can now listen to the new version, all cleaned-up by archivist and engineer Larry Crane who worked from a high-quality cassette provided by Casey Cyrnes.
Listening to this song again made me think even more about what Elliott Smith is representing in many new listeners’ minds. I don’t know why people still see him as this fragile and vulnerable singer and keep comparing him to sadcore artists who supposedly channel his ‘quiet whisper’ or ‘gentlefolk genre’… Can’t people hear his anger and resentment? This song is one of the most violent things you can listen to, with burning rage ready to burst at each line… and enough with that ‘tortured soul’ epithet that I see everywhere, this song is all anger and death wish. Not only the ‘Some Song’ uses the word kill eight times, but the choice of the words paints a painful and aggressive landscape: there is mention of ‘beat’, ‘freak,’ ‘violent,’ ‘sick,’ ‘jail,’ ‘hospital’ and ‘army,’ while Elliott brings us in Dallas, where he grew up, when ‘it’s Halloween tonight and every night,’ as if we were in a never-ending horror story with a ‘Gacy’s scene’ – an allusion to the serial killer and sex offender John Wayne Gacy who also used to dress up as a clown at parties, and this fits very well with the previous Halloween reference – and finally Charlie, who ‘beat you up week after week,’ (Charlie, his stepfather, allegedly abused him when he was a teenager). Meanwhile, Elliott is asking us to help him kill his time and admits he will ‘never be fine.’ It’s such a nihilistic and brilliant song screaming anxiety and bitterness from the first to the last verse.
It looks like Elliott never bothered to find a real title for ‘Some Song,’ which appeared for the first time on the ‘Needle in the Hay’ seven-inch single in 1995, while it was never part of any of his albums.
As it was already said, the expanded 25th Anniversary Edition comes with a 52-page coffee book featuring handwritten lyrics and two dozen previously unseen photographs by JJ Gonson, who also shot the album’s cover photo. The packaging offers several insanely expensive bundles, going from $249.99 to $1,849.99
‘He was goofier on stage, making jokes and messing with his own words,’ says Gonson. ‘As the person who originally signed him to the label, starting with the ‘Needle In The Hay’ single and this self-titled album,’ says Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon, ‘I am especially passionate about putting forward reminders of this phase of his career – his magic as a solo performer and as a writer of songs for simply guitar and voice with little or no accompaniment. I also really want him to be remembered for his humor, warmth, and absurdist sense of irony.’
I agree, there is no question that live, Elliott was very far from this ‘tortured artist cartoon character’ that people associate him with these days. His live performances were always combining intimacy, intensity and a sincere punk rock attitude.