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We visit the photo-shoot site thats become a monument to Elliott Smith

By DMO Affiliate
Reading the news about Elliott Smiths death is one of those memories my mind has granted total recall and clarity. Of the brain-clutter gathered in nearly 30 years on this Earth, only a few memories stand out like this: meeting my wife, getting a phone call from Sean ONeal asking if Id like to work for the Austin outpost of The A.V. Club, the deaths of people I actually knew, and sitting in front of a bulky laptop in my freshman-year dorm room, discovering (from the front page of weezer.com, of all places) that a musician who had l was just growing to love was no longer among us. What happened next is also forever stuck in my head: a sour feeling in my stomach, and then the impulse to rush to the campus record store, Flat, Black, And Circular, to pick up “Pretty (Ugly Before)” b/w “A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free,” the last piece of Smiths music he lived to see released. Id passed it over while combing through the 7-inches a few days before, and I hoped like crazy that no one else had bought it in the interimor heard the news and had the same impulse I had. Fortunately, it was in the same spot Id left it, the paper-cutout-skyline of its sleeve resting against other singles that just werent as important at the time. The single was a reminder that while people flit in and out of our lives, they leave pieces of themselves to be remembered by. And Elliott Smith left behind a lot of himself in his songs, a confessional body of work with a Beatles-esque tunefulness and an emotional openness that attracted listeners who mapped their own sorrows onto “Say Yes or found a kindred spirit in “Somebody That I Used To Know.” The album that contains the latter song, 2000s Figure 8, also gave Smiths fans a way to memorialize the fallen musician, thanks to its cover photo. The swooping backdrop of that imageshot by rock photographer Autumn De Wildeis a fixture of Smiths adopted hometown, Los Angeles, a mural leading the residents of Silver Lake to the front door of Solutions!, an all-purpose audio, video, and electronics shop on Sunset Boulevard.  According to Anji Williams, founder of local outreach group Punk Rock Marthas, Smith fans began affixing temporary tributes to the mural shortly after his deaththough as is the case with other de facto rock monuments like the brick wall outside Abbey Road Studios or Jim Morrisons grave, the notes of thanks and appreciation eventually grew more permanent. Plagued by graffitiand at one point hijacked by a viral-marketing campaign for Roger Waters live performances of Pink Floyds The Wallthe mural has required multiple restorations in the decade since Smiths death, including one intentionally fleeting redux overseen by Williams and Punk Rock Marthas, which coated the paintings stripes in scrawled lyrics, messages from fans, and a flock of paper cranes. When The A.V. Club visited Solutions!, owner Stephon Lew had recently given the wall a fresh coat of paint, its whites crisp and clean, the stripes leading to vivid blobs of red and black on the sidewalk. Yet theres still a poignancy to the fact that so many fans had previously left their own impression on the wallmuch as Smiths music has left an impression on them. In an e-mail sent prior to The A.V. Clubs visit, Lew mentioned his wish that the mural be viewed not as a wailing wall, but rather a celebration of Smiths life and work. Standing in front of the murals refreshed form, feeling as if De Wilde and Smith could set up camp in front of the swirl at any moment, its easy to fulfill that wish.  Like Smiths music, the wall is an understated, direct work of art. And it too can be read like a Rorschach ink blot, made out to be lines on a piece of sheet music or winding bits of circuitrythe red ones representing love, passion, or blood. Take a look at it from across the street, and its simply a big “S—as in “Solutions!” or “Stephon.” Or, in light of the musician who brought us here, “Smith.”
We visit the photo-shoot site thats become a monument to Elliott Smith




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