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So…this probably means it won’t be such a good day.

Last night saw the end of Alex Chilton (of Big Star, the Box Tops, this song), and the more sensitive souls on the internet are already descending into a sustained freakout. If you’re not already a devotee, it can be hard to explain the appeal: there are the blissful pop songs, the folky touches, the melancholy anthems

And then, there’s this record.

The story goes like this: As his band, his record label, and his life were disintegrating, he turned out an ode to all of the failures at once. Listening, you can hear pop songcraft struggling to keep its shape against mounting despair, a dark night of the soul forced into verses and choruses—although not always both at once—and condensed into one of the most inventive pop records of an unusually inventive decade. True to form, the album collapsed before it made it out of the gates—it lingered in the vaults for four years after he left the studio, and there’s never been a definitive track listing—but it’s the stuff legends are built on.

After Third, like a friend that you’ve seen through a breakdown, you felt like you knew the guy. And outside of a few dark spots, he was pretty great to be around—which explains the nervous concern when he disappeared during Katrina, and the outpouring now that he’s gone for real. Break out your records…

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom