Skip to content

‘Big Decision,’ A Live Recording From Elliott Smith’s Expanded 25th Anniversary Edition Of His Self-Titled Album

Big Decision

Big Decision, a live recording

 

Elliott Smith’s show at Umbra Penumbra on September 17th, 1994 is said to be one of his earliest known recordings of a solo performance. The recording has been cleaned up and added to the expanded 25th anniversary edition of his self-titled album, and one of the 10 songs of the setlist, a clear version of ‘Big Decision,’ has been shared in advance of the release.

The song is one of the most anxious tunes Elliott has ever written, he plays a nervous fingerpicking guitar and spits his lyrics in an aggressive way, with an almost ferocious delivery. That’s the angriest you will ever find him, with complex guitar chord progressions executed in a speedy manner, departing from the fragile confession-tone he is often associated with – Elliott was certainly not a one-tone artist. He almost sounds breathless as if he was running through the song, trying to catch or escape someone, something, some trouble,…

The interpretation is up to everyone, but there is a dialogue in the song between ‘I’ and ‘you’ without being sure who are these ‘I’ and ‘you.’ The lyrics go back and forth between the two antagonists with an obsessive rhythm and a vertigo-like impression. There are enough drug references in the lyrics to make people believe Elliott is talking about drug addiction: ‘kick,’ ‘sick,’ ‘You can’t kick when you’re down,’ while the title could well be directly drawn from the Velvet Underground’s song ‘Heroin’: ‘I have made big decision/I’m gonna try to nullify my life.’ Is he asking a person to get sober, to kick an addiction, or is he dialoguing with the drug itself, in an internal exchange?

But just like his song ‘Between the Bars,’ dialogues with addictive substances are just metaphors for troubled relationships… I never understand the direct reading and the one-level meaning people want to give to songs, especially when you are talking about Elliott Smith’s work, this song is much more than a simple reference to heroin addiction. It’s well documented that Elliott was not using hard drugs when this song was written and used drug imagery and addiction as vehicles to talk about dependency and non-self-sufficiency. Plus, if the extreme anxiety of the song and its fast pace both convey the kick of addiction, it would rather parallel speed or coke than heroin.

‘Big Decision,’ which was rarely performed live – Elliott never played it after 1997 – was first released on ‘Various – A Slice of Lemon,‘ a Kill Rock Stars compilation released in 1995, while the song was also featured on ‘New Moon,’ Elliott Smith’s 2007 second posthumous album.

Leave a Comment





Amazon_Smile_logo
LET-ME-HELP-LOGO

Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at smile.amazon.com

SohoJohnny’s Brushes With Greatness: France Joli

By Iman Lababedi | October 27, 2021 |

essential crossover pop just after disco’s height

Going Steady: New Single 10-22-21 – 10-28-21 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | October 27, 2021 |

a nihilist’s anthem

Rob Jankowski’s Highly Anticipated New Film “Attached: Paranormal” Now Available Worldwide

By Meredith Grant | October 26, 2021 |

Do You Believe In the Paranormal?

US Top 10 Singles Dated October 30th, 2021

By Iman Lababedi | October 26, 2021 |

too on the nose

Sneak Peaks: Upcoming Album Releases 10-29-21 – 11-4-21

By Iman Lababedi | October 26, 2021 |

into rock god land

Adele Performed In Front Of A Crowd Of Celebrities At Griffith Observatory On Sunday

By Alyson Camus | October 26, 2021 |

The venue is deeply symbolic

Rock Star Review – ARO Rose “Tarrant”

By Meredith Grant | October 25, 2021 |

Rock Star Review – ARO Rose “Tarrant”

The Monkees Micky Dolenz & Mike Nesmith’s Farewell Tour At The Town Hall, Sunday, October 24th, 2021, Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | October 25, 2021 |

Micky carried Mike for two hours, paid tribute to the Country Americana pop song writers skills, and made certain Nez looked swell

US Top 10 Albums Dated October 30th, 2021

By Iman Lababedi | October 25, 2021 |

a lame 94K EAUs

Matt Whipkey’s New Album, “Hard,” Reviewed

By Alyson Camus | October 25, 2021 |

“Hard” begs for a live show

Scroll To Top