Monday, August 4, 2008

TVD's Daily Wax | Elliott Smith "either/or"

Very often it's said The Beatles or The Beach Boys (or whomever...) have penned a "timeless classic" -- a tune that will live on for the ages. And while that very well may be true, I hardly think of their music as "timeless." And how can it be? Like all fine music it's imbued with the era of its creation, molded by the prevailing recording methods, and nuanced by the very first time it made its presence known to fresh ears. I may very well be humming "She Loves You" long into my geriatric years, but forever it'll evoke --both sonically and historically-- that very first British Invasion.

So, couple this notion that's been running through my head recently with the experiment from last week, to literally and specifically wed "New Wave" to certain years over others, I've been asking myself, is anything truly timeless? Can something from our "modern" era ever be thought of as perhaps, somehow in some construct, existing in say, 1910? Can I envision some Depression Era hobo hopping aboard a southbound train humming something that I might be humming today? And if so - what would construe such timelessness?

My inclination is to think that this salad would consist of some fine melodic and evocative songwriting for one, a lack of wicked popularity such as The Beatles attained to divorce it from any era, and the absence of a sonic fingerprint that would wed the recording's sound to a particular time. No Hendrix, for example. No Bee Gees. No Nirvana. Maybe nothing electric for that matter - or the taint of modernity. Just a slim, sexy skeleton without any meat or matter on the bones.

So, forgive me once more, I'm conducting an experiment.

One time I caught Elliott Smith at the Black Cat's first spot a few doors down on the left. While my date that evening napped (?) there was a quiet lull between songs and some other young lass yelled out "Elliott Smith - you break my heart!" And she had no idea just how right she was.


Elliott Smith - Alameda (Mp3)
Elliott Smith - Between The Bars (Mp3)
Elliott Smith - Angeles (Mp3)
Elliott Smith - 2:45 A.M. (Mp3)
Elliott Smith - Say Yes (Mp3)


Marissa said...

1) So completely jealous that you saw him at a small venue. (I only had one opportunity to see him and it was in Chicago's Vic theater, which is not horribly big, but not a that cozy.)

2) I'd say his melodies are timeless (i.e. good for hobo humming), but his lyrics definitely capture a time in American life.

3) My goodness, he was talented...and I still get a bit misty when I think about him.

Great blog post.

Hanan said...

Elliott Smith is amazing. may he RIP. thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

While Elliott is incredible and indeed, my favorite artist ever, the "timeless" argument in my mind goes to nick drake. He is so mysterious, and the voice that sings those words could be 20 or 1000 years old, or anywhere in between.

Anonymous said...

The last two Bob Dylan albums - 'Love and Theft' and 'Modern Times' - are as close to timeless as they come for me. They sound like they could have been made at any point in the last 100 years in terms of the musicianship, singing, and production. A number of the songs conjure up that Depression Era hobo too. But are they actually timeless? Hmm...

Jon said...

I beg to differ a bit, Noah. Love it or hate it, once you hear Dylan's VOICE, the 'timeless' bubble is burst.

I agree with the Nick Drake comment made earlier, however. That said though, I hope I can come up with a handful more as the week draws on...