Directed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. From Punisher, out now on Dead Oceans.
In a humorous yet not entirely unexpected move, indie darling Phoebe Bridgers has tapped the similarly named creator of the BBC hit series “Fleabag” to direct a music video. Phoebe Waller-Bridge directs Phoebe Bridgers. Get it? Ha ha.
I love this song. I love Elliott Smith. Phoebe Bridgers certainly doesn’t attempt to hide her love of Elliott Smith. On 2017’s Stranger in the Alps as soon as I heard the chorus of “Demi Moore” I was like, oh, this person loves Elliott Smith as much as I do. I was not wrong.
Bridgers has gone on the record as saying that Smith’s music is “like The Beatles to me, and I mean that in every way. If someone doesn’t like his music, I actually feel like I’m not going to agree with them about anything. It informs everything I like.”
The title track of her latest album features an imaginary conversation with Smith: “What if I told you I feel like I know you / But we never met?”
I get that.
It also contains the lines “Hear so many stories of you at the bar / Most times alone, and some looking your worst / But never not sweet to the trust funds and punishers.” If you’ve ever met one of your heroes and shamelessly gushed to them how much they mean to you until their eyes glazed over, you know what it’s like to be a punisher. We all try to be cool but it’s hard to shut off that valve once you start pouring your guts out.
My all-time favorite “Elliott Smith being nice to strangers” story comes from Buddyhead’s Travis Keller:
In the summer of 1999 I talked my friend Marko Shafer into driving 1,000 miles with me from Los Angeles to Olympia, WA last minute to attend a DIY festival he knew little to nothing about called Yo Yo A Go Go. I was excited to see The Make Up, Thrones, Sleater-Kinney, Dead Moon but the main attraction was without a doubt Elliott Smith. But when we arrived at The Capitol Theater we learned that the show was sold out. Determined to get in despite the odds, I walked down the side alley of the theater and saw Elliott Smith standing by the back door. I shit you not. He was wearing a trucker hat that said “WHO’S THE BOSS?” and pulling from a cigarette as you’d expect him to be. I explained to him that my friend and I had drove all the way from Los Angeles to see him play but couldn’t buy tickets, in a way only a fan-dorking 19 year old could. To which he replied with something along the lines of “Well I’ve got two guest passes and no friends, wanna be my friend?” And like that he finished his smoke and led us in the back door. We walked past several bands who were setting up their gear, and Elliott asked “Who’s the boss” which immediately got the response as if on cue “you are Elliott!” Elliott then led us to the side of the stage where I sat for the entirety of his performance and shot this photo. You could hear a fuckin’ pin drop in that sold out theatre of 1500 people. Afterwards, we went to a bar with Elliott and chatted. I think it was my second time in a bar ever. He was beyond sweet, seemed generally interested in what I had to say. He was funny, intelligent and charming. One of the realest people I ever met and I feel lucky to have gotten a chance to be around him while he was here.
“Savior Complex” is Bridgers’ most Elliott Smith sounding song since “Demi Moore,” especially the way she sings “But I’m too tired to have a pissing contest…” It’s classic. And it’s great.
The video is cute too. Spoiler: The dog’s the protagonist.