100 for 2000 – #7. Elliott Smith – Figure 8

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2000 – #7. Elliott Smith – Figure 8

What do I say about Elliott Smith? The guy meant so much to me. I love all his records.

So Isabelle Trolio turned me onto Elliott. She told me she was listening a lot to XO. I went out and got it, and fell in love immediately. Talking about sad-sack music, he’s the king of the scene. I went back from XO, and waited for the Happiness single, then for Figure 8 to be released. I stayed up and watched the Son Of Sam clip on Rage. I was hoping he would be huge.

Do we really need to discuss what’s so great about this album? His amazing musicianship and style had found a major studio budget with XO, and this follow up was even more widescreen. Some think it’s a bit too long. Some think it’s a bit too produced. But I don’t know anyone who’s heard it that doesn’t love it quite a bit.

So there’s four things I want to say about this record, and Elliott.

One – why wasn’t this album huge? I guess it lacked singles, and I guess those singles were weird. But Triple J didn’t play him, and he only toured once. He didn’t do TV shows or anything either. I guess I feel like we dropped the ball on this. All of us. We all loved the guy, how come he didn’t make the cover of some street press when this album came out? Why didn’t radio put a track on light rotation?

There was an attitude around that, sure, he was great. But he’s not cool enough, and we can’t support him. Maybe the next thing he does. Then he died and he’s a cult figure. Even back in 2000, every said he was as good as Jeff Buckley. Why wasn’t he treated better in his lifetime?

Two – out of every musician who’s ever died in my lifetime, this one affected me most. A mix of being young, and one of the first musicians I loved to die, and how much I just loved the guy anyway – I’m not sure I will ever feel that way again.

I helped to organise a couple of tribute shows in Australia. I was never a part of the Elliott Smith forums world, but I got on there and offered a few spots to people on there who wanted to play a song or two. Tapes and CDs turned up at my parents house from people who barely go to shows, from all walks of life, who loved Elliott and wanted to strum a few songs in his honor.

It was very touching to see the ones I chose actually play. They weren’t part of the Sydney scene. One guy never knew a single soul in person who liked Elliott’s music.

When I played the Melbourne show, I saw two girls crying down the front. Geez, it was just so sad.

Three – it was such a fucking cliche. His songs about his troubled soul, his worried mind. It just puts him in a certain box now. A suicide musician. Lets look for clues in his songs. Kind of crap.

Four – the Halloween after Elliott died, my mate Gumby dressed as Elliott Smith with a plastic knife in his chest, and a bad beanie. It was quite funny actually.

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