Review #216: Either/Or, Elliott Smith

Karla Clifton
2 min readDec 24, 2021

#216: Either/Or, Elliott Smith

I am a huge Elliott Smith fan, which is just as lame as it sounds. I’ve mentioned it several times.

For those who don’t know, Elliott Smith is the quintessential sad boy, who made acousticky songs that were both soft and full of angst. Soundgarden: angry music for sad people; Elliott Smith: sad music for angry people.

This album essentially launched him into the spotlight. The director of the movie Good Will Hunting, Gus Van Sant, put three songs from this album onto the soundtrack, plus another original from Smith called “Miss Misery.” The original ended up being nominated for an Oscar, but lost to — you may have heard of it — Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. Which, fair enough. But his performance at the ceremony made him a much bigger name than he’d been before.

Elliott Smith was in fact a pretty sad person, and died at 34 in 2003 after (allegedly) stabbing himself in the chest, which is very sad indeed.


“Alameda” — Ah, yes, here are those cheerful Elliott Smith lyrics we’re all here for. Nobody broke your heart/You broke your own because you can’t finish what you start.

“Ballad of Big Nothing” — Adore the end. Big nothiiiing.

“Between the Bars” — I’ve always hated this song. It’s so … I don’t know, mushy? The RS blurb calls it a “morosely pretty drunk’s lullaby” and points out that Madonna covered it, which sums it up. But it’s his biggest hit, and it is very sweet.

“Pictures Of Me” — I love when his voice picks up on Saw you and me on the coin-op TV.

“No Name No. 5” — No Names №1–4 are all on Roman Candle, Smith’s debut — and more on THAT later.

“Angeles” — This is my favorite song off this album — it’s quieter than the rest of them and has a pretty, complex fingerpicking guitar part. I also just love songs about ambition and failure.

“Cupid’s Trick” — An honest-to-God rock song!

“2:45 AM” — The urge to hug him when he says I’m looking for the man that attacked me/While everybody was laughing at me.

“Say Yes” — Wow, what a relief for a happy song to be the closer! Jack Black performed this, isn’t that wild?


“Speed Trials” — Probably the least singable song on this, and isn’t that what we’re all listening to Elliott Smith for anyway?

“Punch And Judy” — Feel like he’s slightly off-key here.


This might be unpopular, but here’s the truth: Roman Candle is a better album. It’s darker than this one. That’s my truth.

Review #215: American Beauty, Grateful Dead

Review #217: Definitely Maybe, Oasis