“En avril 2000 paraissait Figure 8, le cinquième album d’Elliott Smith, le dernier publié de son vivant. Un album venimeux, exubérant, contradictoire et ambitieux, difficile d’accès selon certains, le plus accessible pour d’autres, un album dont la lumière ambiguë a pu déconcerter ceux – ils sont nombreux – qui préfèrent ne voir en Elliott que la noirceur cathartique et se sont sentis trahis par la palette de couleurs déployée ici. Album de l’ambivalence : là où certains percevaient un retrait émotionnel, quelques-uns entendaient à l’inverse une confession plus frontale encore qu’auparavant, portée au point d’incandescence, parée de cordes, ourlée de sophistication et constellée d’éclats bien moins domestiqués que dans XO. Album au bord du vide, toujours sur la corde raide, Figure 8 est un vertige, celui du funambule qui hésite entre regarder en arrière ou tomber, entre distance et défi, celui du boxeur au bord du K.O., aussi. Un vertige et un malentendu… cet album-là a été mal compris, mal aimé, c’est presque toujours celui qui sera cité en dernier, certainement le plus difficile à cerner.
Cinquante deux minutes, seize titres, et puis quelques chansons fantômes, vingt-cinq pistes ayant été enregistrées à l’origine pour figurer sur le disque.
Avant d’être publié, Figure 8 a longtemps porté un autre nom : Place Pigalle. Deux titres pour deux chansons enregistrées pour l’album, mais n’y figurant finalement ni l’une ni l’autre. Deux absences, deux négatifs pour un titre, deux énigmes et deux indices pour comprendre que ce qui se joue dans Figure 8 n’est pas étranger à ce jeu sur le visible et le caché. Continue reading →
“I grew up in the Silver Lake area and went to junior high down the street from the Sound Solutions wall. I came up with the idea of using the weird murals on Sunset that I’d been obsessing over since I was little. It was the ugliest mural I’d ever seen, and eventually the most beautiful because I looked at it almost everyday. So I took Polaroids of a bunch of murals up and down Sunset Boulevard, and I’d always loved that photo of NickDrake leaning against a brick wall looking down the street while a blurred picture of a girl (sic) runs by. I said at a meeting with Elliott, “What if you’re unaware of the color around you, and you’re just walking through or leaning against the wall, and you don’t realize how electric it is?” And he was, like, “I love that idea.” He was really into it being like a journey through this part of L.A.”
“A lot of the material on Figure 8 came to me in a frenetic six-week burst of activity. The songs are written in a very straightforward way, and can be played on one guitar. So my thinking was, since they’re coherent structurally, why not have the sounds keep moving around? The idea that you have to stay within one area for a whole song seemed very limiting. The idea was to reinforce the songs, but also to take them out of their linear path. A lot of the times those things came from being spontaneous, just looking around and seeing what we had in the room. I’m a big fan of trying things. You know, swinging and missing. Nonmusical factors have contributed to this “unexpected” growth. After years of touring , I’ve taken some time off and made a concerted effort to maintain a three-dimensional life.”
“On several songs there’s some imagery that keeps popping up about soldiers, or doing battle with something. On that particular song, “Wouldn’t Mama Be Proud”, I just thought that it was an interesting question. I don’t know what the answer is, to that. Sometimes it seems like “No”… I wanted it to seem equally plausible to answer it “No” or “Yes”.You can’t answer to some sort of authority that you don’t even know who they are, or what it is. That song wasn’t meant to be specifically addressed to my parents, it’s just an abstract authority that sees you in some mainstream terms. Would they like how your life seems to be? Would they be disappointed? Would they be impressed? Does any of this matter? Or are any of the answers negative, some of them positive?”
“I spent a few months in Paris. There’s a very special bond between french people and me. People here are really interested in my lyrics and they’re always willing to talk after the show. European people do understand some things that American people will never get.”
“She was talking a lot about that movie, “La Jetée”, which I think is really cool. It’s all stills, except for one little moment where someone’s eyes open, and that’s the only moving part of it. There was some of that and some… not trying to cop “The Red Balloon”, but there was something kind of interesting about following around an inflated thing. It could represent many things: definitely something that you have some desire for in some way or another. “
“Part of what I like about Figure 8, well, to the extent that I can like my own music, is that I like it better when it’s hard to name it, you know, or to really describe it. I think it’s more varied than the last record, there’s more different kinds of songs and the range of emotions on it are greater. Or maybe that’s just what I prefer to believe. The only thing I know is that it feels different than the other ones, and that’s all I really require. Sometimes I know what I was thinking when I wrote the songs, and sometimes I only have theories about what I was thinking, that change from time to time. And even if I knew what I was thinking, I wouldn’t necessarily want to talk about it. ”
“We wanted to make it [Figure 8] move and change as much as possible without becoming kind of difficult to listen to or bothersome in its changefulness. There were more songs recorded for it than wound up on it. At one point Figure 8 was maybe going to be a double album, but then it seemed better to have it be a single and make it change and move as much as possible, like a boxer trying to move around so he doesn’t get knocked out. I think this record’s pushing things with how long it is, but every time we tried to take something out it seemed to upset the little constellation of songs and make it work not quite as well.”