This is a reworking/rewriting of something I did back on the much-missed Noise To Signal on this same anniversary a few years back. I’m reposting it here, a decade since Elliott died, as a further tribute, and with some updated music links to enjoy…
On 22nd October 2003, I was sitting in my college library browsing the internet when I saw a surprising headline on BBC News. The singer/songwriter Steven Paul “Elliott” Smith had been found dead in his apartment a day earlier, of two stab wounds to the chest, at the age of 34. At the time, I’d only really heard one or two of Elliott’s albums in full, and only owned one – 2000’s Figure 8. Despite this, it had been an integral enough influence on my taste and listening habits during my post-adolescent period, and featured certain songs that had been such a comfort during a difficult period I was going through in that latter half of 2003, that I was genuinely saddened by this death for reasons beyond the unutterably tragic circumstances in which they occurred.
It’s something of a cliché that the death of an artist is one of the best things that can happen to their record sales – and I didn’t particularly want to be part of that vulture-like culture. Nevertheless, I felt sufficiently guilty about never having fully explored his music while he was alive – and sufficiently moved by the circumstances of his life and death, the more I read about him – that I felt an obligation to further delve into the work of someone who’d already meant a surprising amount to me. What I discovered was that Elliott’s music – both as written and as performed – has the ability to reach inside and pull at the fabric of my soul like just about no-one else I’ve ever heard. As such, for getting on for nine years now, his songs have taken on greater and greater importance in my life.
Continue reading →
Continuing my intermittent series of articles revisiting every one of Weezer’s songs throughout their career from 1992 to the present. Each album – or set of tracks – listened to and written about in order, no song covered more than once (in most cases), full-band releases or demos only (in most cases). Introduction and more info here, and part one – covering the years 1992-1995 – here.
It’s the beginning of the first working week of December, so of course, once again, this annual festive tradition is here to brighten up the chilly Monday lunchtimes of those of you who haven’t just kept it saved on your computer from last year.
You should know the drill by now, but if you don’t (and I seem to have picked up a fair few new twit-o-chums in the last year or so, so this might actually be the case for once), then it’s a Christmas compilation album (designed to fit on a single CD, so if I want to bring new stuff in – which I do some years – then something else has to make way), made up largely of tracks that are a bit different – whether that just means they’re an indie/rock interpretation of a classic, or if they take a slightly fractured or unusual perspective on the festivities. There are one or two exceptions – stone-cold classics that I just couldn’t bring myself to leave out – but on the whole these are songs you’re less likely to hear while you’re out and about doing Christmas shopping, but which still (for me, at least) convey a lovely and festive feeling.
This year’s tracklisting is identical to last year’s, so if you’ve already got the 2011 version, all you’ll find that’s changed is the file name… so as ever, Merry Christmas, and enjoy!
1. Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Time Is Here (2:44)
2. Murray Gold & Neil Hannon – Song For Ten (3:29)
3. Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You (4:01)
4. Fountains of Wayne – I Want an Alien For Christmas (2:19)
5. Loudon Wainwright III – Christmas Morning (3:49)
6. Low – Just Like Christmas (3:08)
7. The Ronettes – I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (2:41)
8. The Ventures – Sleigh Ride (2:22)
9. Grandaddy – Alan Parsons in a Winter Wonderland (2:59)
10. Bright Eyes – Blue Christmas (2:19)
11. Eels – Everything’s Gonna Be Cool This Christmas (2:48)
12. The Vandals – Oi To The World (2:15)
13. The Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick (2:10)
14. Zombina & The Skeletones – A Chainsaw For Christmas (3:11)
15. The Ramones – Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight) (2:06)
16. The Kinks – Father Christmas (3:43)
17. Rilo Kiley – Xmas Cake (5:24)
18. Jonathan Coulton – Chiron Beta Prime (2:51)
19. Spitting Image – Santa Claus Is On The Dole (3:48)
20. The Long Blondes – Christmas is Cancelled (4:29)
21. Half Man Half Biscuit – It’s Cliched To Be Cynical At Christmas (3:48)
22. She & Him – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (3:42)
23. Badly Drawn Boy – Donna and Blitzen (4:19)
24. My Chemical Romance – All I Want For Christmas Is You (3:45)
This year, though, I’ve also decided to throw in an extra little treat. You may or may not already be aware that a few of the above tracks come from an XFM-produced compilation album from 2000 called It’s a Cool Cool Christmas. This album’s pretty hard to track down these days – it’s long out of print, second-hand copies are rare, and I don’t believe there’s a legal download of it available – so I’ve decided to make a copy of it available for those who want to hear the whole thing (personally, I think I’ve already picked out the best cuts from it and used them above, but you may well disagree). You can get that here, at least for as long as it’s there before someone important notices and shouts at me to get rid of it.
What I will say, however, is that it was originally put out as a charity record in support of The Big Issue, an organisation that I consider to be a highly worthy cause (particularly around Christmas, when many of those suffering homelessness tend to feel it most acutely). So if you are going to download it, perhaps you might want to think about dropping them a small (or even a not so small) donation at the same time?
Weezer. Alternative rock band from Los Angeles, California, specialising (mostly) in melodic power-pop, usually with a romantic lyrical bent. Formed in 1992, with a lineup that has consisted of Rivers Cuomo (vocals and guitar, 1992-present), Patrick Wilson (drums, 1992-present), Matt Sharp (bass and vocals, 1992-1998), Brian Bell (guitar and vocals, 1993-present), Jason Cropper (guitar and vocals, 1992-1993), Mikey Welsh (bass and vocals, 1998-2001) and Scott Shriner (bass and vocals, 2001-present). Primary name associated with the phrase “geek rock”, and the most direct influence on the late ’90s/early 2000s US popular emo-core movement (Jimmy Eat World, The Get Up Kids, Saves the Day etc.).
They’ve been basically my favourite band since I started listening to them with a vengeance in mid-2000, but I haven’t really written much about them (a couple of track-by-track reviews aside) since I abandoned my surprisingly-popular fansite, WeezerfansUK, about eight or nine years ago. That’s changing with this blog project, in which I’m listening to every one of their songs, in chronological order, and writing about them on an era-by-era basis. If you want a full tracklist and an explanation of the self-imposed rules, check out the introductory post – but if you’re ready to get on with the project, then read on.
(And feel free to do a listen of the albums – or a re-listen, if you’re a fan – yourself, and join in with your comments, if you fancy it. I’ve tried to make this as accessible as possible both to long-time fans, and to those who don’t know much about the band but might find it an interesting read, so here and there you’ll find embedded Youtube songs so you can hear some of the things I’m talking about.)
WHAT? A blog-based listening project that will involve going through (just about) every single Weezer song, in chronological order, and charting the evolution (or, in some cases, devolution) of the band’s songwriting and recording styles.
WHY? My favourite band for over a decade, Weezer continue to fascinate me even as they continue their slide towards being one of the music industry’s biggest running jokes. Their recent recording output has been baffling, bizarre and – in the main – borderline unlistenable, yet there’s something about them that means they can never wholly be written off, and even the worst albums contain nuggets of merit. I want to examine why that is, as well as looking at why and how they’ve got to this stage in the first place. I also find it fascinating to look at the surprisingly high number of “albums that never were”, and compare them with the official eight albums that have seen release.
HOW? Rather than taking each song on a detailed one-by-one basis (it’s been done, and with over 150 songs to get through it’d take bloody ages), I’ll look at blocks of songs in separated “eras” – each centred around a particular album but also taking in things that might have gone on in the year or so either side of it.
I hope it’ll be interesting – especially for those of you who actually like the band, but maybe for some of you who don’t as well. I’ll try and include song links here and there so that readers who don’t know the material I’m talking about can sample the important bits.
Finally, a few quick notes for people who might actually know what I’m on about:
See you later this month for part one!