To take the late Elliott Smith's solo work at face value, he was known for dark, introspective songwriting that influenced a generation of indie musicians. But his early work in the band Heatmiser tells another side of the story - and this fall, 20 years after his tragic passing, Third Man Records will revisit the band's work with a collection of rare and unreleased material.
The Music of Heatmiser, available on CD or 2LP October 6, is named for the self-released cassette the group - singer/guitarists Smith and Neal Gust, drummer Tony Lash and bassist Brandt Peterson (later replaced by Sam Coombes) - would offer at shows in and around the Portland, Oregon area in which they came up. For the first time, that cassette will be made widely available on this release, alongside the contents of an early non-album single, demos that would end up on their debut album Dead Air (1993), a cadre of unreleased songs and a 1994 live radio session.
Songwriting duties were split between Smith and Gust, both prolific songwriters who played in several bands together in college. While both were coming at similar subjects from different angles - the introspection and distance from others Gust felt stemmed in part from being an openly gay man - Smith would offset his painful lyrics with deceptive melodies (a tactic no doubt borrowed from his deep love of The Beatles). Despite modest but positive reception to Dead Air and 1994 follow-up Cop and Speeder, the prolific Smith began a solo career in earnest the same year Cop was released, and the group was essentially defunct by the time their final work, the Caroline Records-issued Mic City Sons, was released in 1996. Smith was dismissive of the louder, edgier sound of his old band, but would reconcile personally with his estranged bandmates after the Oscar-nominated "Miss Misery" thrust him uncomfortably into the spotlight. Gust and Smith recorded one track together, "Who's Behind the Door," in 2002, a year before Smith died at the age of 34 of a stabbing that medical experts were unable to confirm were self-inflicted.
The new set takes fans and new listeners back to the loud fun and promise of that early '90s Pacific Northwest scene, and two songwriters who helped it shine. You can pre-order The Music of Heatmiser below.
The Music of Heatmiser (Third Man, 2023)
- Bottle Rocket
- Just a Little Prick
- Mightier Than You
- Can't Be Touched
- Dead Air (Demo)
- Sands Hotel (Demo)
- Mock Up (Demo)
- Cannibal (Demo)
- Candyland (Demo)
- Still (Demo)
- Man Camp
- Laying Low
- Bloody Knuckles
- Father Song
- Black Out (Live on KBOO-FM, Portland, OR - 10/25/1994)
- Bottle Rocket (Live on KBOO-FM, Portland, OR - 10/25/1994)
- Dirt (Live on KBOO-FM, Portland, OR - 10/25/1994)
- Still (Live on KBOO-FM, Portland, OR - 10/25/1994)
- Candyland (Live on KBOO-FM, Portland, OR - 10/25/1994)
- Don't Look Down (Live on KBOO-FM, Portland, OR - 10/25/1994)
- Lowlife (Live on KBOO-FM, Portland, OR - 10/25/1994)
Tracks 1-6 released on The Music of Heatmiser - self-released cassette, 1992
Tracks 7-9 released on Cavity Search single CSR 2, 1993
All other tracks previously unreleased