51 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on 12 July 2003
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.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 7 March 2007
The impossibly exquisite tenderness with which Elliot sings songs such as " Say Yes, " " Angeles," and " Rose Parade, " have endeared him to millions of people. His songs have a melodic simplicity, purity and honesty that recall the folk-pop classics of the 60's and 70's such as George Harrisons " All Things Must Pass," Led Zeppelins " Thats The Way," and Paul Simons " April Come She Will. " If you liked those tracks then Elliot is the man for you. RIP.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2001
This is a great album. Excellent song writing, and wonderfully lo-fi sounding. The production makes it sound like Elliot is next door, playing live and it's all coming through the wall a little bit muffled. Very human sounding and very melodic.
Mind you, if you dont have his other first two albums I would buy the box set instead, that contains this and them for similar money. (they're good as well)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2000
I wouldn't personally rate this as highly as his ... (admittedly more commercial) ... album XO, but it's still a magnificent demonstration of the immense talent of this man. 'Ballad of Big Nothing' is one of the best songs he's ever written, understated, heartfelt and moving, and the rest of the album comes extremely close to matching it. If I have one complaint it's that the album does tend to get a bit samey if you're listening to all 35 minutes at once - but that doesn't mean the songs aren't brilliant. You might recognise a lot of this album from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack but buy it on its own merits - it's superb.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 11 November 1999
Subtle songs of love and life from one of the best songwriters of the decade. This, his third album is slightly less low key/low-fi than his first two albums but dosen't suffer the commercial pretention of it's succesor "XO". Smith writes short simple acoustic numbers that he backs with minimalist bass and drums which he plays himself. There are elemnts of Nick Drake in his folky blend. Smith like Drake is an extremely acomplished guitarist and this really shows on tracks such as "angelis" and its complex one guitar intro. This is his best album (much of which turns up on the "Good Will Hunting"soundtrack); Short, endlessly beutiful, soulful, subtle and understated, you will want to cherish this CD and play it till it melts. Everyone with a soul should own this CD.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 2 August 2006
i remember buying this album xmas 98 just after XO came out domino re-released his first three albums so I didn't know where to start but I had heard 'between the bars' on the UNCUT albums of year compilation, so I went for 'either/or'. The influence is still resonating to this day nobody I feel was writing pure acoustic pop up to that point and lo-fi production gained elliott his rabid cult following. On first listen 'Say Yes' is such brillant song using 60's style songwriting (simon & garfunkel/kinks/beatles) but with a contempory edge and is still in my opinon his finest song, closely followed by '2:45' the intimacy on this track is just so absorbing the conviction in elliott's voice is what stands him out from alot other more mainstream singer-songwriters you just know he means every single word. Probably the best place to start if your a virgin elliott smith listener.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2000
This album is the only music that makes me feel good to be alone, from the haunting guitar to the sublime vocals, this is a must buy if youve ever enjoyed life, or radiohead
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
With the success of his recent album , interest in elliott smith's back catalogue has finally arrived at its deserved level.
While this collection of songs is by no means as good as figure 8, simply because its not as long (at only 36 minutes, its shortness is this albums only downfall) it is still nonetheless fully worthy of its five star rating.
All the songs are beautiful, exploring the deeo emotional pain of splitting up. Most of the songs are sublimely moving; Angeles and Between the Bars stand out as espescially romantic; but the occasional song picks up the pace, and cupid's tricks is full of anger and energy.
If you haven't heard figure 8 yet, then i recommend that you get used to smith's style with that record. I fhowever, you liked figure 8, this is definetely worth your money
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 February 2000
Sleepy tunes with understated breathy vocals, literally poetry set to music. Poetry of the blackest kind, this man has had some very painful experiences in his life. I feel this comes accross in this album more than any others. At least six of the tracks on this album are absolutely stand-out, especially Angelas, and 2:45. This album makes for tireless listening. Good if you want to wallow in your misery for a little while.
on 17 December 2010
Elliott Smith's 3rd album is considered by many to be his best. It is the last of his lo-fi albums and is just brimming with fantastic songs. In fact there are probably 5 songs on the album that would make the grade, if I were to make a favourite all time songs compilation.
It's not as angry as his previous album, but there's a tension beneath the surface, that's for sure. From the haunting Speed Trials, through to the beautiful Say Yes, the album takes the listener on an emotional journey. From the loneliness of Alameda, "now you see your first mistake, was thinking that you could relate", to the addiction of Between the Bars. From the individual, looking in from the outside on Rose Parade, to the whispering temptation of Angeles, "I could make you satisfied in everything you do, all your secret wishes could right now be coming true".
For anyone who likes the singer/songwriter genre, then Elliott Smith is head and shoulders above all the copycat acts that have come along since. No-one has come close, either in melody, or lyric. The only problem with buying this album, is that it will make you realise how bad some of your other albums are.