Man Out of Time

Elliott Smith has nothing to do with what's happening in the current music scene. Thank goodness.

"Wouldn't Mama Be Proud?" exemplifies this tactic. Musically it's a hook-o-rama that sounds like something Eric Carmen might have written on a good day. But the lyrics -- "The question is, wouldn't mama be proud?/ There's a silver lining in the corporate cloud/ And the pretty post that you're taking as an NCO of the great pretender/I should think so!" -- constitute a witheringly sarcastic assault on avarice and those afflicted with it. But instead of spitting out these sentiments as might an industrial-rock maven, Smith practically caresses them. To him, his delivery is more faithful to the ways average Joes and Janes actually behave.

"Most people I know, when they get really mad about something, don't lean out their window and scream about it to people they don't even know," he says. "Usually their voice will drop down low and they'll be like [a near whisper], "That fuckin' pisses me off.' There's lots of things I like to sing about, but not many things I can imagine wanting to scream about."

Except maybe that review in Fortune. "It's incredible to me that they'd do a review of my album at all, and that my name would even appear in that magazine," he fumes. "So part of me is like, "That's a bunch of crap.' But another part of me is like, "Who cares?' I mean, it's Fortune. Besides, everybody's an expert when it comes to music. If it was a painting, they'd have to go ask somebody else who knew something about painting. But since it's pop music, everybody feels in a position to criticize people.

"It really bothers me when I think about it. So I don't think about it very much."

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