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Hear Elliott Smith’s Uptempo Take on ‘Punch and Judy’

Elliott Smith / Photo by Getty Images

Elliott Smith’s former label home, Kill Rock Stars, is celebrating the late singer and songwriter’s legacy all month in honor what would have been his 43rd birthday on August 6. Last week, the label shared a subtly different, previously unreleased take on broke-your-own-heart strummer “Alameda,” from Smith’s classic 1997 album Either/Or (No. 48 a few years ago on SPIN’s 125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years). Now KRS has posted a version of the exquisitely plaintive ballad “Punch and Judy,” only this one is a jarring contrast, with not only unfamiliar lyrics, but also an uptempo rock arrangement. Anyone new to Smith should check out the original first, but for the rest of us, the off-kilter, hi-hat-heavy take at least offers an illuminating insight into a gifted artist’s creative process.

From the Archive: Read SPIN’s January 1999 profile of Smith