Elliott Smith: Emotional Rescue

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If it’s true that only love can break your heart and that only a love song can help to mend it, then the fitter, happier and more productive Elliott Smith is healing by the thousands. By Jonathan Valania

With all due apologies to Nick Hornby, here are my desert-island, top five break-ups of all time:

5) Colleen Reese: Beautiful girl. I loved her with all my heart. To quote Weezer, we were good as married in my mind. Sadly, we never lasted past kindergarten. Break-up record: “Seasons In The Sun” by Terry Jacks.

4) Christine Thompson: Golden-haired Teutonic goddess. Because we were the tallest in our sixth-grade class, we always got seated together in the back. Somewhere along the way, she turned into a “bad girl” and got shipped off to Catholic school. Break-up record: “Come Sail Away” by Styx.

3) Tracy Stocker: Cute as a button, head majorette. I took her to the junior-high prom. Didn’t see her all summer, and my terminal shyness around girls forbade me from telling her I still liked her when we met up again in high school. She wound up going out with some jerk who wanted to kick my ass. I should’ve let him. Break-up record: Abbey Road by the Beatles.

2) Lynette Miller: Smart, sultry and voluptuous. High school sweethearts, we lost our virginity together. Probably should’ve married her, though I practically did, as we dated on and off for the next 15 years. Living together put an end to that. This just in: She said yes when the keyboardist in her band proposed onstage a few nights ago. Break-up record: “So. Central Rain” by R.E.M.

1) Jude Gillespie: Breathtaking, ruby-haired beauty with a heart as big as the great outdoors. Really should’ve married this one. She wanted to, but I was too wrapped up in my own bullshit, which is pretty much all she left me with. Break-up record: Figure 8 by Elliott Smith.

And now, it would seem, all my trains have left the station.

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Q&A With Matthew Sweet

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Beginning with 1991’s Girlfriend (after two major-label albums essentially went unnoticed) and continuing through 1999’s In Reverse, Matthew Sweet has staked his claim as one of the most consistent pop/rock purveyors. Fittingly, Sweet has capped his decade of quality work with Time Capsule: The Best Of Matthew Sweet 1990-2000 (Volcano), an 18-track (two are new) retrospective. Not beholden to a label for the first time in 10 years, Sweet is now focused on writing music for himself before figuring out what kind of record he’ll make and for whom. As quick with a laugh as with a self-deprecating remark, expressing even the most depressing thoughts with a chuckle, Sweet walks us through some career highs and lows.

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Steve Earle: Runnin’ Down A Dream

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Chased and cornered by his demons six years ago, Steve Earle is now almost impossible to pin down, MAGNET hits the road with the songwriter, label owner, political activist and literary hopeful. By Robert Baird

“You don’t like chocolate?” Steve Earle exclaims with genuine astonishment at Elisa Sanders, the label manager of his E-Squared Records. “Well, that’s like not liking fucking!”

It’s five minutes before Earle and his band, the Dukes, go onstage at The Belly Up in Solana Beach, Calif. Even though everyone in the group is a hardened road veteran—none more so than Earle—and this isn’t the biggest show the band will play on this tour, there’s still a touch of backstage jitters. The mention of the f-word triggers Earle’s legendary iconoclastic wit.

“You know,” he says, “Church Of Christ people never fuck standing up because they’re afraid someone might look in the window and think they’re dancing.”

As everyone doubles over with laughter, bassist Kelly Looney—who, with 12 years of service under his belt, is the senior Duke—moves to the food table and takes a swig of Gatorade. “You know, Gatorade tastes like boogers,” Looney says with mock seriousness. Inspired by a fresh wave of laughter, he continues. “And the best part of the gig was the boogers.”

Ah, backstage with Steve Earle: clean and sober, yes, but still a good time. Good times are, in fact, a major theme in Earle’s life these days, though you’ll have to excuse the man if he doesn’t pause to genuflect on the matter. He’s simply too busy making up for lost time.

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Daevid Allen: Magical History Tour

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For three decades, Daevid Allen has cast eccentric spells on prog rock, conjuring flying teapots and pothead pixies with such groups as Gong and Soft Machine. By Mitch Myers

Examining musician/poet/psychedelic survivor Daevid Allen’s uncommon life, the infamous premise of Brion Gysin’s cut-up method immediately comes to mind. In 1959, painter/writer Gysin cut newspaper articles into sections and rearranged them at random. Some of Gysin’s guerrilla art emerged as coherent, meaningful prose without the slightest bit of editing. Why does Gysin’s alien collage strategy bring to mind Allen, an aging renaissance man who most folks have never heard of? Three reasons. One is that Allen still shares Gysin’s appreciation for the French surrealist movement of the ‘20s. Second, Allen became friendly with Gysin while staying at the Beat Hotel in Paris in 1963. And finally, Allen himself is a cut-up, a merry prankster who repeatedly reminds us not to take life too seriously. When art consistently goes against the grain, it can be upsetting, revelatory, offensive, inspirational or just damn funny. In Allen’s case, it’s often all of the above.

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John Martyn: Departures And Revivals

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John Martyn is too tough to be the folk singer you remember from the ‘60s. Enduring several storied decades of music making his legacy continues with a new set of modern classics. By Mitch Myers

John Martyn sits at a hotel bar in downtown Chicago. The 50-year-old Scotsman is relaxing after a weekend of stirring live performances, including a minor spot on the summer’s Fleadh Festival. His face is swollen, and I’m positive that it’s a side effect from decades of serious drinking. Then the singer casually informs me, “I got hit on the side of my head with a baseball bat in New York a few days ago. Mugged just a few yards from my hotel. I wish I felt better, I’m still a bit off.”

Message received: Never assume that you know a man before he tells you his story.

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