Track of the Day: Elliott Smith - "Punch and Judy" (Alternate Version)

Leave a Comment

The alternate version of "Punch and Judy" is Kill Rock Star's second taste of alternate versions of Smith's work in honor of what would be the singer's 43rd birthday.  In contrast to our first helping, an alternate version of "Alameda," this version of "Punch and Judy" seems about as far from the album version as possible.  The sheen and slowed down surfy guitar (a seemingly lackadaisical descendent of "Kiwi Maddog 20/20") is replaced with an anxious riff which buzzes out with some serious disco sounding rhythm.  As the song pumps along, Smith seems like he can barely keep up with it all.  The lyrics seem to droop behind the clash forward in a similar vein to "Grand Mal," the once title-track to XO whose surviving version Smith claims is too fast.  

The substantial sizing down of the drums and dialing back of the tempo in the album version really allows this song to come alive.  Smith's at once candid and colloquial rebuttals -- "bums me out to remember" and "Can't you ever treat anyone nice? / Think I'm gonna make the same mistake twice?" -- are among his more understated lyrics.  Perhaps, it shouldn't surprise given the uptempo alternate version which leaves little room to hang on much less ruminate.  

As I commented in writing about the "Alameda" Alt. Version, it's incredible to hear these tracks and see how Smith progressed from point A to point B -- from alternate to album.  They're among the best lessons that we can get into how someone works, how a sound is formed, and how a voice is crafted. This version seems to suggest that the lavish instrumentation of XO and Figure 8 were already in Smith's head.  What he needed were different songs upon which to use the instruments. 


Post a Comment