10 Reasons Elliott Smith and Morrissey Would’ve Been BFFs
Elliott Smith and Morrissey are artists who provide constant comfort for the aching hearts of the 17-year-olds cowering inside all of us. Their melodramatic lyrical representations of life soak into the depths of your soul, drowning out bright and happy feelings and replacing them with darkness. But you know, in a good way! Given their overtly depressing lyrics and general sad-sack personas, Smith and the ex-Smiths singer share much in common, and had Smith not died in 2003, we think they might be best friends. Here are 10 reasons why.
One's a Smith. The other fronted the Smiths. Coincidence? Impossible. There's an obvious kinship there, and on some cosmic level that transcends bloodlines, these two are brothers.
Elliott Smith had an eye for visuals, and his iconic 'Figure 8' cover finds the singer standing in front of a wall in L.A. that fans still flock to and creatively restored in 2012. The same goes for Morrissey, and poster-sized renderings of the sleeve he and the Smiths cooked up for 'Meat is Murder' remain dorm-room staples for angsty vegetarian co-eds. And that's just one of Moz's classic covers. His last three albums have found him clutching a tommy gun, a violin, and a baby!
For people all over the world, turning 17 means becoming a fan of Elliott Smith and/or Morrissey. Perhaps it's because they're the only ones who can soothe the troubled teenage soul, though people tend to stick with them through life, and both artists have tremendous cult followings. Moz is even big among SoCal Latinos, proving his mopiness translates beyond the English-speaking world.
Most of us were introduced to the Smiths and Elliott Smith via the movies. 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' featured the former's 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want,' though the version heard in the famous art-gallery scene is actually an instrumental cover by Dream Academy. Smith, meanwhile, earned an Oscar nomination for 'Miss Misery,' his contribution to the 'Good Will Hunting' soundtrack.
Smith and Morrissey's records make good soundtracks for falling into black abysses of misery, and few artists share their ability to make fans weep openly. They express themselves in such a way that your pain feels real and validated, and that's a powerful thing. Bring on the waterworks.
It is no secret Morrissey has had some trouble getting along with other musicians, and his contempt for society at large comes across in his songs. "You shut your mouth / How can you say I go about things in the wrong way?" he sings on 'How Soon is Now?' a Smiths classic that demonstrates his defensive stance. Hasn't anyone told him it's impolite to tell someone to shut their mouth? Elliott Smith's misanthropy is less obvious, but it's there. His society-hating ways can be heard in lines like, "You think you know what brings me down / That I want the things you could never allow." These lyrics, from 'St. Ides Heaven,' speak to Smith's discomfort with how society viewed him. He felt no one truly understood who he was or what he wanted from life, and he and Moz could have had long chats on precisely that subject.
They're not exactly the same, mind you, but even super fans, if they're really honest about it, have to admit that Moz and Smith's songs get sorta samey after a while. Since the mid-'80s, Morrissey has sung with the same tone and vibe, using his low pitch and drawn-out phrasing to maximize the moroseness in his lyrics. The instrumentation is often a mix of traditional rock-band elements -- drums, guitar, bass -- with hints of '80s synths. Elliott Smith's songs are more in the folk-rock style, and he was known for his acoustic guitars and soft, nasally vocals. Sometimes, he would throw everyone for a loop and add a piano, but most of the time, he gave fans about what they'd come to expect.
Before Morrissey and Smith got big with their solo careers, they both were members of atypical bands. While everyone knows Morrissey's, Smith's Heatmiser were more of an underground phenomenon. Both artists made great music as ensemble players -- it's debatable whether Moz's solo standouts trumps his Smiths stuff -- but neither was meant to be merely a frontman or a fraction of a whole.
As discussed above, Moz and Smith's songs speak to a general discontentment with the world, but one theme that keeps coming up again and again is heartbreak. Neither Elliott Smith nor Morrissey can seem to escape the feeling, and the latter's most recent album, 2009's 'Years of Refusal,' ends with the tellingly titled 'I'm OK By Myself.' Smith, of course, often sang about how love will hurt us more than anything, and while there's never been a shortage of pop songs about being lovesick, these guys make it sound like a genuine illness.
Elliott Smith is associated with the grunge look, as he often rocked jeans, black t-shirts and a greasy mop of shaggy black hair. Morrissey, too, is known for his hair -- that towering pompadour (a little greyer and less Everest-like these days) is one of rock's most iconic 'dos. Their cuts were completely different, so while they wouldn't have shared styling tips, they might have talked about what it's like to look out over a sea of devotees sporting your style.