As promised, Kill Rock Stars has released another long-withheld Elliott Smith recording. As has been the case every other week this month, they’ve delivered an unreleased cut from Smith’s seminal 1997 album, Either/Or. So far, we’ve heard different takes of “Alameda,” “Punch and Judy,” and “Angeles.” This week’s track is an alternate version of “Ballad of Big Nothing.”
At first glance, there are very few differences between this version and the one that made the album. A few lines have been slightly tweaked, but it does little to change the feel of the song. Even though this song does characteristically feature Smith’s gloomy lyrics, the music has a different feel from most of his other songs.
“Ballad of Big Nothing” is a rocker, with drums playing a more prominent role than they do in the majority of the other songs on Either/Or, or the rest of the Elliott Smith catalog for that matter. It also finds him dropping his hushed singing style and belting the lyrics a bit more. It may just be because we recently wrote about “The EMI Song (Smile for Me),” and Smith is a known Big Star fan, often covering their songs, but his vocals sound reminiscent of Alex Chilton’s.
Even though some of these tracks haven’t been much different from the ones on Either/Or, they’ve offered a revealing look at the recording process for one of the most remarkable albums of the 1990s. Here’s hoping that there are more Elliott Smith recordings to be posthumously released.
The alternate version of “Ballad of Big Nothing” is available for sale on Kill Rock Star’s Bandcamp and for streaming below.