Since performing his song "Miss Misery" from the movie Good Will Hunting on the Oscars earlier this year, Elliott Smith has become the glossy mags' favorite mopey white boy, kind of the way Kurt Cobain was in the early 90s. But whereas Cobain's anguish and confusion were manifest in Nirvana's confrontational music, Smith's lovelorn sulkiness is couched in gentle, glorious melodies, a synthesis of the Beatles, Todd Rundgren, Nick Drake, Big Star, and the Beach Boys with all the sharp edges sanded away. On his fourth solo album and major label debut, XO (Dreamworks), Smith magnifies his strummy hooks with grandiose string-heavy arrangements, more confident elocution, and more sophisticated melodies. But I have to say that while he's definitely shown a knack for capturing failed romance and its bitter, almost mute aftermath in words, hearing him coo a line like "What a fucking joke" amid the lush Brian Wilson vocal harmonies on "I Didn't Understand" just doesn't strike me as that poignant. Smith plays nearly every instrument on the album and wrote the woozy string charts himself, but here he'll be backed by the terrific Portland duo Quasi, which features Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss and Smith's old Heatmiser band mate Sam Coomes, who'll also open the show with their own set. They've got a sympathetic Beatles jones, but their hard-rocking ways could obliterate Smith's lovely delicacy. Friday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Chris Buck.