Elliott Smith- Alameda (Alternate Take)
Posted by Andy Decelles
A roommate once asked me which musician I would bring back to life, if I could, to make another album. I was initially caught off guard by the question. I had never really dwelled upon the subject before, and ended up spending the better part of the afternoon fantasizing about follow ups to In Utero and Grace. But as great as Cobain and Buckley were, I ultimately decided that, if I were a deity with power over life and death, I would bring Elliott Smith back to life for one more album. Either/Or, XO, and Figure 8 are three of my favorite albums, and in my opinion one of the strongest runs of albums ever put out by an artist. I would have loved to here a take of From a Basement on the Hill completed by Smith himself.
But this mental exercise brought me to dwell upon an uncomfortable question; would I hear Smith’s work with the same sense of heartbreaking beauty if his life hadn’t come to tragic end in late 2003? In a way, more than wanting him to come back to life to record another album, I wanted him dead. I needed him dead, so that I that the wondrous mythology surrounding his body of work could live on. Which is, or course, completely fucked. I don’t think I could ever kill someone, but in a cosmic sense, I did kill Elliott Smith. I’m not sure I would bring him back to life, even if I could.
Yesterday, the ironically named Kill Rock Stars released the first of many unreleased tracks the label currently holds, an alternate take of “Alameda”. The reworked second track off Smith’s 1997 release Either/Or sounds a bit more processed and features a few lyrical changes, but is every bit as devastating as the version we’ve come to know and love. I’ve been listening to both takes side by side for a while now, which is proving to be a rather tearful experience. Artistically, it shows that Smith could have taken Either/Or (and likely any other of his albums) in tonally different directions with equally great results. Unlike many reissues, which due little more than make money for labels, this release actually exalts the human condition, exploring the mind and soul of a truly incredible artist. The track is available now on Bandcamp, and other rarities will soon be available. Smith would have turned 43 on August 6th. RIP