The Over/Under: Elliott Smith

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Corey duBrowa can clearly remember two pivot points in the career of Elliott Smith: the first solo show he attended (Sept. 17, 1994, at a long-forgotten Portland, Ore., all-ages venue called Umbra Penumbra, where Smith played a combination of acoustic Heatmiser material and some new songs that would later appear on solo debut Roman Candle) and Smith’s posthumous Portland memorial (Oct. 25, 2003; the event and everything leading up to it was first published by MAGNET as a free-form essay called “The Moon Is A Lightbulb Breaking”). Throughout his career, Smith recorded way more material than ever made it to the public’s ear, some of which comprises the “underrated” portion of this week’s The Over/Under. The rest of which, we eagerly await …

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The Over/Under: R.E.M.

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MAGNET’s friend Roob (you’d know him if you saw him) was a Yes man until he took a trip to Chronic Town in 1982. He’s left the city limits since then, but now he’s back to inform you of the five most overrated and five most underrated R.E.M. songs.

I was 23 years old when I first heard 1982’s Chronic Town bursting from my friend Linda’s speakers, and that seminal EP, which was essentially a template for the entire indie-rock movement, managed to turn me overnight from a proghead who spent his free time in a room lit only by a lava lap, listening to Tales From Topographic Oceans (on headphones) spinning on an old turntable into a diehard fan of cutting-edge guitar-pop music. I gave up on R.E.M. sometime in the mid-’90s, disgusted not only with the obvious decline in the band’s work but by the notion that somehow the stuff the group was still putting out was even better than everything from 1983’s Murmur up through 1987’s Document. As I revisited all of R.E.M.’s records for this piece, I tried to approach the newer stuff with an open mind. Maybe it’s not as dreadful as I thought. Maybe I dismissed everything after 1996’s New Adventures In Hi-Fi too quickly. Maybe R.E.M. really is still a great band, only different. Sadly, I was wrong. No group in history has ever plunged from such remarkable heights to such dismal depths. But, then again, R.E.M. was once the greatest band in the world. Anyway, here are the five most overrated and underrated tracks in R.E.M.’s 29-year history.

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The Over/Under: The Replacements

replacements540d2When Matt Hickey started writing for MAGNET in 1994, he made the mistake of mentioning how much he loved the Replacements. From that point on, he was Replacements Boy. He reviewed pretty much every ex-Mats-member solo record and interviewed everyone who’d ever been in the band, with the exception of Bob Stinson and Steve Foley. (Sadly, neither is doing interviews these days.) So it fell to him to create this Mats argument-starter. Enjoy. (The selections are in vaguely chronological order.)

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The Over/Under: Robert Pollard

pollard43511Our friend Roob (you’d know him if you saw him) convinced us that he’s the foremost authority on Guided By Voices and Bob Pollard. (He claims to possess 257 GBV bootlegs, which is probably 256 more than Pollard himself owns.) Somehow, that qualifies him to make the following list of the five most overrated and five most underrated non-GBV Pollard songs.

:: The Five Most Overrated Non-GBV Robert Pollard Songs
1. “Do Something Real” (1999)

One of the things that’s made Bob Pollard the greatest songwriter who ever lived is that he never quite comes out and says anything. His remarkable lyrics hint at a notion, suggest an idea, foretell a feeling. But they never just say it. With the musically jerky “Do Something Real,” from the otherwise awesome Speak Kindly Of Your Volunteer Fire Department (a collaboration with Doug Gillard), Pollard actually gets preachy, and it’s unbecoming of him. “Do something real with your life,” he used to say while introducing this at Guided By Voices shows. I’ll go to a Midnight Oil show and listen to Peter Garrett’s rambling morality lessons if I want to hear this kind of crap.

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