by Joel Parmer (@cup_of_joel)
Either/Or is one of my favorite Elliott Smith records, and likely a top pick for many people. It’s certainly the album that propelled Smith from a modest Portland-dwelling singer songwriter headfirst into the sphere of international recognition. From this record, “Ballad of Big Nothing” has always stuck out as one of the best tracks to me. I’ve seen this song and a couple others from Either/Or covered live by bands over the years. Whenever this happens I’m taken back to a place where I was binging Elliott Smith albums alone in my room at the cusp of my early twenties.
Cheekface’s cover takes this classic Elliott Smith song and conveys a grittier approach. The tempo is slightly ramped up and acoustic guitars are replaced by fuzzy electric tones, while maintaining a majority of the original, memorable riffs. Bass lines punch in with more of a staccato feel alongside drums driven by alternating high hat beats rather than simply holding firm to the crashed ride feel and articulated drums fills of the original. Adding in a tambourine was a great call by Cheekface, as it fits in the generated lo-fi pocket nicely. Vocally, the song follows Smith’s paramount melodies with a sprinkling of falsetto and backing tracks. Lastly, I applaud Cheekface for ending the cover the way they did; opting to cut it just a little bit short caught me by surprise.
Cheekface’s “Ballad of Big Nothing” cover is on Post-Trash: Volume Four, a compilation to benefit RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services). The band recently released their debut album, Therapy Island, out now via New Professor Music.