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Ellis Paul | Sweet Mistakes | review | alternative | rock | Lollipop
Sweet Mistakes (Co-op Pop)
by Jamie Kiffel
If you've followed Ellis Paul from backstreet club to broom closet bar the way I have, this disc may shock you. If you've only heard the Boston folk rocker's accidental pop hits, "The World Ain't Slowin' Down" (on the soundtrack to Me, Myself & Irene) and "Sweet Mistakes" (featured in Shallow Hal), you may find yourself confusedly surrounded by acoustic guitars. And if you've never heard him at all, Ellis' creative, mouthy poetry is bound to teach you a few things.
Sweet Mistakes is exactly what the title says it is: A playfully experimental recording of 10 "sleepers" Ellis used to drag out only for concerts, plus a remix of the catchy "3,000 Miles" and the gleaming "Sweet Mistakes." All other songs aside, "Sweet Mistakes" is worth the price of the album: It is a stunning "Cat's Cradle" for our generation.
As a whole, the album is a mixed bag of pop, folk, and misfiled musical dabbles independently recorded in a small studio in the company of friends. "These are first-run versions in all their vulnerable glory," Ellis explains. There are sentimental poems like "Kristian's Song" about a guitarist who plays in the subways "for old friends he don't know"; "New Orleans," a minor-key ballad about drunken love on Bourbon Street, and "Seventeen Septembers," a formless ramble of love thoughts and sweet chords. There are also pop tunes; a weird electrified funk mix of "The Martyr's Lounge" (one of Ellis' finest lyrics about a "bar up in heaven"); a countrified love quip about a woman who's so hard to sleep with that her lover buys her a roll-away bed, and a lightly rapped version of "20th Century," a poem Ellis occasionally recites live.
This is an outstanding musician's pet project, a prized collection of previously homeless musical dabblings. Not Ellis' greatest work, it's nonetheless valuable. It's filled with the kind of phrases and ideas that will make most of us nod understandingly, knowing we never thought of it that way - and simultaneously gasping that we feel exactly that way. If you can step up and dare to face acoustic guitars, you might just hear a poet interpret the inside of yourself.