Roman Candle, Elliott Smith
Cavity Search, July 14, 1994
Track Listing: 1. Roman Candle, 2. Condor Ave, 3. No Name # 1, 4. No Name #2, 5. No Name #3, 6. Drive All Over Town, 7. No Name #4, 8. Last Call, 9. Kiwi Maddog 20/20
Something always draws me back here. Back to the broken poet. The quiet one. The gentle cripple whispering softly in my ear. The one who tells me quietly all the dark and desperate secrets of the universe. Tells me all the black mysteries. The crooked reasons why. The streaking and fiery answers that lie there just behind the clouds. It’s a terrible and frightening voice. Wounded. But it explains everything. Carefully (and with much precision). It explains the true meaning of stars. Or simply the reason why—why the delicate spirit gods shoot up so urgently across the cold sky at night. I can’t explain it. I just come back.
“And make him feel this pretty burn”
-from the song, “Roman Candle”
Maybe it’s the guitar at the end of track one. No, it’s the E String repetition at the end of track one. How it throbs, softly, like a dying pulse, back and forth, sweetly, almost as if it doesn’t want to end. Please don’t end. Elliot Smith was a visionary. His head full of flames. His melodies and lyrics still burn like angry holy ghosts. They smash and split your soul like a raging desert prophet. You have spoken to the raging bush so now explode please. I remember the first time I saw him singing. It was on a major network on TV during a major moment. I can’t believe how beautiful it was. Like hearing tiny gasps of breath at death.
I remember hearing him on college radio, too. Driving past the big crumbly leaves of autumn, past northern universities on the way to work in a Midwest city. That voice sounded like the brittle leaves falling. The sun was shining. The poetry bounced across a cruel blue sky. I’ve bought every album ever since. I love them all. I listen to them constantly. New things come along all the time but I always go back. Always to this one. This is his first. They are demo songs done in a basement. 4-track and crackling just like the beautiful hurting rose who sang them. It hurts so bad. Doesn’t it always? So on a beautiful sunny day or a horrid winter morning, I always go back. Never mind the hiss. It’s the shooting beauty of no-name songs that cry out in acoustic urgency. They burn and glitter as they rise up and fall across the wide black sky. And yes, they will fade and go out. But you can always go back. Go back again. Oh what a terrible light they leave.
“Watched the dying day
blushing in the sky
Everyone is uptight
So come on night”
-from “No Name #3”