This is the first album I heard by Elliott Smith, and it left me so hungry to hear more of his work that I just had to buy all his albums.
Either/Or is perhaps his best work, it is an absolute dream for fans of lo-fi, stripped down, intimate, acoustic guitar mastery. The album lacks the polish of his later works XO and Figure 8 but in my opinion it has ten times the magic.
After all, what is a bit of tape hiss between friends? Yes, this album has that but to be honest, if Elliott re-recorded it in an all singing, all dancing 24-track studio, he couldn't better what he has made here.
It has a gentle, folky, campfire intimacy that makes you feel as though you know Elliott, you are chilling with him as he captivates you with his incredible guitar picking and his extraordinary voice.
Comparisons with Nick Drake are inevitable but perhaps a little misleading. The only real similarity is that, like Nick, Elliott is a poet who knows just how beautiful the simplicity of vocals and acoustic guitar can be. But I think Elliott sounds more like a Beatle. If he had been in the group his voice would have perfectly complemented John and Paul.
This is an album where every track has something beautiful about it - Between the Bars is a gorgeous ballad, while Speed Trials contains an infectious, haunting melody you will never get out of your head. Rose Parade is another amazing acoustic song with some humorous, wry lyrics - only Elliott could get away with mentioning the Duracell Bunny without looking silly.
Behind the bitterness and hurt of many of the lyrics on the album lurks an angry punk, not a wistful folkie, which in my opinion makes it all the more special. It amazes me that he does not have the public recognition that Radiohead enjoy - he clearly deserves it. A modern day genius. Sometimes five stars just don't seem enough.