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Roman Candle 1994 Album

Roman Candle Roman Candle
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30m 28s
United States
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Roman Candle is the debut studio album by American singer-songwriter Elliott Smith. It was recorded in late 1993 and released on July 14, 1994 by record label Cavity Search.
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1. Roman Candle 3m 37s
2. Condor Ave 3m 34s
3. No Name #1 3m 3s
4. No Name #2 3m 34s
5. No Name #3 3m 13s
6. Drive All Over Town 2m 36s
7. No Name #4 2m 30s
8. Last Call 4m 38s
9. Kiwi Maddog 20/20 3m 40s


All Reviews
Listening to Elliott’s debut, Roman Candle is akin to eating the meal of a talented amateur chef. They have all the ingredients and the passion but lack the finesse that experience brings. Yet, their creations are delicious and bold, perhaps messy in their execution, but nonetheless, they created one of the best meals you have ever experienced. Roman Candle may lack the perfect touch of a master songwriter, but that does not stop the album from sticking out among a vast sea of lo-fi indie folk. In many ways, it is precisely what you would expect: a cheaply made raw lo-fi indie album, a dime-a-dozen album made by an amateur that does not quite know what they’re doing. But, like a great amateur chef, while the product may appear messy, the content below the surface reveals an infinite well of potential. Listening to Roman Candle is listening to the blueprint of one of the greatest songwriters of all time. An album that is remarkable despite its humble origins as a silent personal project by a young starving artist. In many ways, Roman Candle’s release and success were completely coincidental. Elliott Smith did not intend to release the collection of songs as he recorded them. They were merely part of a habit in which he would borrow 4 track tape recorders to use with cheap microphones and guitars to record music, a tradition he had been doing since his teenage years. Since he was 14 years old, Smith had been writing songs on borrowed four-tracks. So when he wasn’t working with Heatmiser, he was frantically writing and recording acoustic solo material. "My first solo record, Roman Candle, was just the most recent eight songs that I’d recorded on borrowed four-tracks and borrowed guitar. Elliott Smith never saw these songs as his ticket to success; instead, they were a release from his more popular project Heatmiser, a band that stood in stark contrast to Roman Candle. Heatmiser was led by Elliott Smith and his friend Neil Gust. The band fit in well with the popular sound of 1994. They were yet another loud indie alternative rock band that could fit in the same space as the biggest grunge acts of the time. However, Elliott Smith was never happy with the band. He would even go as far as to say that they “sucked” despite later regretting the remark. To him, the band felt like a chore that required hours of work to even somewhat maintain. He also hated his voice on the band’s loud sound, and his only reason for continuing was out of obligation to his friend Neil Gust. Because of this, Elliott Smith would escape that negative creative space by recording lo-fi solo material where he could solely dictate the music and perform in a way that he was comfortable with. In fact, sometimes I think I said, ‘That band sucked,’ which is really not cool. That’s one of the things I regret. Since then I’ve talked to Neil. He understands that it’s just one of those things you can’t take back. It sucks. I think it hurt him for awhile." Smith says the only reason he stayed in the band as long as he did was for the sake of his friend Neil. Elliott Smith never intended to send the tapes out to record companies. It was not until his girlfriend of the time convinced him to relent and finally send the tapes. Smith was apprehensive at the time as he believed the sound of Roman Candle did not fit into the Grunge-dominated music industry. At most, he expected a deal for a 7-inch, but to his surprise, the record company Cavity Search Records wanted to release a full record, and even more surprising was the record’s success. My girlfriend at the time convinced me to send these songs to Cavity Search. When they wanted to put out my record I was totally shocked. I thought my head would be chopped off immediately when it came out because at the time it was so opposite to the grunge thing that was popular. Nothing made me start doing it because I’d just been doing it for years. But it didn’t occur to me to put anything out. In fact, it occurred to me not to put anything out. The thing is that album was really well-received, which was a total shock, and it immediately eclipsed my band unfortunately." When Elliott got a call from the Olympia, Washington based label, he expected to get a deal for a 7 inch. Instead, the label proposed putting out the entire tape as an album. The record made waves in the indie scene of the time despite criticisms of its supposed derivative content. Roman Candle’s success even overshadowed Heatmiser, which undoubtedly caused tension. But, for Elliott Smith, this was an opportunity to have complete creative control of his career. And a chance to make the music that he felt comfortable with despite his previous fears of the industry rejecting his indie folk style. While Elliott would grow more successful as he expanded his sound, Roman Candle’s initial success shows that the qualities that made Elliott Smith special were always present. While his sound evolved over time, the specific voice of Elliott Smith was there from the very beginning, even in his shoestring-budget indie era. In many ways, Roman Candle is overwhelmingly indie; the album cover is a random black and white photo of two friends of his, Elliott Smith recorded the album with equipment that anyone could afford, and the sound is devoid of any slickness or sheen. Roman Candle is amateur, it is shoddy, and it is messy. Yet, these qualities do not detract from the album’s overall quality, and that is entirely due to the songwriting talent of Elliott Smith. This is abundantly clear with the first track Roman Candle. One of the darkest songs Elliott Smith ever wrote. With a striking, fast-paced, almost grungy riff with a soft-spoken yet furious vocal delivery commenting on abuse. With the chorus, “I wanna hurt him I wanna give him pain I’m a Roman candle My head is full of flames,” depicting the desire to harm an abuser. A chorus that represents the dark nature of the abused. Far more than most of the heaviest grunge of the time. This following song is the equally morose Condor Avenue, a song that Smith wrote at only 17. The song depicts a couple arguing, eventually leading to the woman leaving and, in her weary state, hitting a hobo after falling asleep at the wheel. Leaving her dead and reduced to a whisper, as the song makes mention of several times. She took the Oldsmobile out past Condor Avenue The fairground's lit, a drunk man sits by the gate she's driving through Got his hat tipped bottle back in between his teeth Looks like he's buried in the sand at the beach I can't think about you driving off to leave barely awake To take a little nap while the road is straight I wish that car had never been discovered They took away the bottle and the hat he was under That's the one thing that he could never do And it'll make a whisper out of you And someone's burning out, out on Condor Avenue Trying to make a whisper out of you The following song is a part of a series of songs in the “No-Name” hexalogy, all of which cover the various emotions of quiet and introverted people. No-Name #1 depicts a man struggling to fit in at an event and convincing himself that he does not belong; Go home And live with your pain Leave alone Leave alone, 'cause you know you don't belong You don't belong here No-Name #2 then follows with the narrator struggling to handle talking to an ex-girlfriend I'm lying here on the ground A strip of wet concrete Her name was just a broken sound A stutter step you hear when you're falling down Killing time won't stop this crying Killing time won't stop this crying Killing time won't stop this crying and then follows No-Name #3, the more optimistic of the three which depicts a couple reconciling after a fight and coming to peace with the hardships of life. You're a witness, you You've seen me interrupt A good, old-fashioned fight So, come on, night Everyone is gone Home to oblivion Home to oblivion Home to oblivion Watched the dying day Blushing in the sky Everyone is uptight So, come on, night After the trilogy concludes, Drive All Over Town follows, seemingly depicting a man driving over town to find his girlfriend that has supposedly cheated on him. He knew the one time with the army captain He got over that whole deal before it happened And it's okay, I knew exactly what you meant When you said you were an accident When it's 3 AM, he wonders where in the hell she went And he'll drive all over town Drive all over town The No-Name series then concludes(until later albums) with No-Name #4, depicting the narrators’ mixed feelings of relief and anxiety after escaping an abusive household. Packed it up and didn't look back I'm okay lets just forget all about him The car was cold and it smelled like old cigarettes and pine In her bag I saw things she drew when she was mine It's our secret do not tell okay? Let's just not talk about it Don't tell okay? Let's just forget all about it Then follows Last Call, a song about self-hatred and the desire to have the courage to say what needs to be said and not to be haunted by regret. Well, you know one day it'll come to haunt you That you didn't tell him quite the truth You're a crisis, you're an icicle You're a tongueless talker, you don't care what you say Trying to crawl under my skin When I already shed my best defense It comes out all around that you won And I think I'm all done, you can switch me off safely While I'm lying here waiting for sleep to overtake me The album then concludes with Kiwi Maddog 20/20, an instrumental that is at times dark but has bits of sweetness that shine through for an optimistic end to such a dark album. Roman Candle stands out amongst the rest of Elliott Smith’s discography precisely because of its flaws. Elliott Smith’s later albums are the work of an experienced and honed songwriter. While Roman Candle is the work of a songwriter simply throwing ideas to the wind and sharing the raw ingredients, they cook within a cozy space. Because of this, Roman Candle stands on its own as a classic. While it lacks the masterful writing of Either/Or or Figure 8, it possesses the most blatantly human collection of songs that Elliott ever wrote and an angsty youthful energy that could never be recreated after Elliott Smith’s success and later wisdom. Thus Roman Candle retains its status as an anomaly in Elliott Smith’s discography. While also remaining a worthwhile and essential album for any listener wanting to experience Elliott Smith’s legendary career. If you liked this please check out my other articles. Sources: https://web.archive.org/web/20031105005159/http://www.undertheradarmag.com/es.html http://www.sweetadeline.net/bio6.html


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