Customer Review

185 of 189 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A troubled cure for a troubled mind, May 7, 2005
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This review is from: Five Leaves Left (Audio CD)
When my good friend Phil recommended this CD to me, he helpfully provided a product advisory. "I'm warning you," Phil emailed. "It's really melancholy stuff, so make sure you don't have any sharp objects lying around when you listen to it."

Like any good Irishman, I love mournful music, and I have a particular weakness for suicidal musicians, especially the ones that died too early to suck. So Phil's words of warning were like catnip to me. Move over Joy Division, Nirvana, and Elliott Smith; make room in the Case Logic for some Nick Drake.

I soon found that Phil was right--and wrong.

On one hand, "Five Leaves Left" feels like the saddest CD ever recorded. You can't fake these emotions; every poignant lyric, every aching guitar chord, and every weeping cello proclaim that this is the voice of a troubled and self-critical soul. Nick Drake died of an overdose at the age of 26; oddly enough, of his three albums, this first one sounds most like a suicide note.

Granted, there's some debate among his fans as to whether his death was indeed a suicide, whether the overdose was accidental or deliberate. On one hand, he OD'd on antidepressants, even though barbituates were available, and he didn't leave a note. On the other hand, he'd already written "Fruit Tree."

Has any musician penned a more convincing suicide note? I doubt it. "Safe in your place deep in the earth/That's when they'll know what you were truly worth." I'm sorry, Ian Curtis--"Closer" may come close, but nothing's more depressing than that. And unlike, say, Elliott Smith, whose pop sensibilities often contrasted his morbid lyrics, every note of this song amplifies its mournfulness.

Still, this album is comforting in its melancholia--it doesn't leave you feeling suicidal, because you listen to it and know there's someone out there who has felt your feelings and given voice to your thoughts. In fact, it's perfect music to listen to at sunset on a Sunday night, when the day and the weekend are over and you haven't accomplished anything and you're facing another 40 hour week of work-related drudgery. If you're thinking of picking up a guitar and hiring a string arranger and writing a song about those emotions, don't bother--you won't do any better than "Day is Done," a 2-and-a-half-minute gem that perfectly encapsulates those feelings.

So cheer up, all you sad people--there's a man out there who understood you, even though he never met you. I wish he'd found a way out of the depression, found a way to stick around, write new songs, and keep his old songs from being used in Volkswagon commercials; they say dying young's a great career move, but you miss out on a lot, and when you're dead you can't stop people from doing silly things with your back catalog. Also, even though people romanticize depression and drug overdoses, they really aren't all that fun, especially for those left behind. But Nick left us with some great music, and we can at least be thankful for that. "Don't you worry," he sang, to us, and to himself. "They'll stand and stare when you're gone." Amen, brother.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 16, 2008 10:36:04 AM PST
A music fan says:
I'd never seen - nor posted - a comment on a review until I saw one here (for a different review from this one).

I just had to say "bravo." It says what I did in mine (particularly about depressing-but-hold-up-a-bit-here), but quite better. If you like this read, get this record. You won't be disappointed.

Posted on Jul 24, 2009 8:07:30 PM PDT
What a beautiful review! Thank you. I can't wait to own the boxed set.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 10:14:45 AM PDT
Thanks for the review comment! Incidentally, I'm blogging now, and trying to build up a readership. If you're interested, check it out at http://alfonsomangione.blogspot.com/

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2009 10:14:55 AM PDT
Thanks for the review comment! Incidentally, I'm blogging now, and trying to build up a readership. If you're interested, check it out at http://alfonsomangione.blogspot.com/

Posted on Apr 29, 2010 8:48:14 PM PDT
awesome review

Posted on Aug 21, 2010 8:02:31 AM PDT
VineGal says:
I don't usually read an entire music review, you can generally get the gist in a couple of lines and move on. I really enjoyed this one though, excellent writing. I just became aware of Nick Drake and it's fascinating to see the depth to which he is known and appreciated.

Posted on Jan 20, 2012 7:10:39 PM PST
Cityboy says:
Beautifully said review. He is like the blues in that you feel happier after hearing someone else 's sorrow. As you dig deeper you see the stunning beauty along with painful sadness. At first you don't notice the hurt because of the delivery is so pretty. Alice n Chains sound happy until the lyrics grab you. Some people can not find happiness in any aspic of life, I feel for them. I hope he can see the joy he does bring to people now.

Posted on Nov 28, 2012 10:23:02 AM PST
I never read music reviews all the way through, but this one in particular grabbed me. :) Thanks for writing. Said everything I could ever say about Nick Drake.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2012 11:32:49 AM PST
Thanks! It's funny, but I've gotten more into "Bryter Later" lately. This is still pretty awesome, though!

Posted on Apr 1, 2013 4:44:35 PM PDT
Ditto - lovely review! Although the Volkswagen commercial was actually a good thing because it put Nick Drake's lovely music out to a whole new group of people.
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