In interviews to promote the final release of his lifetime, 2000’s Figure 8, Elliott Smith stated his albums could at the time easily divide into either “metal” or “acoustic” sides. In 1994, however, he was every bit the campus troubadour, battling to find his voice and perhaps a break from the day job in Oregon rockers Heatmiser.
Smith sent this selection of nine demos to Portland’s Cavity Search with a view to getting a 7” pressed up. An obvious choice would have been the title track, a seething attack on an unnamed wrongdoer who the usually placid Smith wanted “to hurt”. Deciding on a single was not a problem, however, as label boss Christopher Cropper released the album as was (four tracks remain untitled). Being demos, then, this has always been lo-fidelity but, thankfully, Smith archivist Roger Seibel has now sympathetically taken out the top end to make the package more in keeping with say, Smith’s third album, Either/Or.
As a meticulous worker, Smith never intended these demos to turn into an LP, and, somewhat sadly, little matches the quality or accomplished construction of later work. But Roman Candle endures stylishly nonetheless, and is invigorated by this careful rework.