Neither has an official video that we could find, so there's no visuals to muddle our decisioning. Smith's lyrics are a bit more cryptic ("First the mic then a half cigarette / Singing 'Cathy's Clown' / That's the man she's married to now / That's the girl that he takes around town") than the Replacements ("And sometimes I just ain't in the mood / To take my place in back with the loudmouths / You're like a picture on the fridge that's never stocked with food / I used to live at home, now I stay at the house"), though neither are high on the Wilco meter, and mostly transparency is what's on offer with a dollop of wordplay.
"Waltz #2" sure offers us a bleak outlook on the unknowability of others' interior lives and pains: "She appears composed, so she is, I suppose / Who can really tell? / She shows no emotion at all / Stares into space like a dead china doll" but tries to turn that frown upside down ("Still going strong / XO, Mom / It's ok, it's alright, nothing's wrong") with about as much success as you'd expect.
The most optimistic moment in "Here Comes a Regular" ("And everybody wants to be someone's here / Someone's gonna show up, never fear") is maybe even less optimistic than Smith's. Both songs turn toward the cold (see also our first-round coverage of "Here Comes a Regular") and are in their separate ways about the end, though The Replacements arrive at a sad resignation to winter: "First the lights, then the collar goes up and the wind begins to blow / Turn your back on a pay-you-back, last call / First the glass, then the leaves that pass, then comes the snow / Ain't much to rake anyway in the fall." Smith takes a hypothetical: "Tell Mr. Man with impossible plans to just leave me alone / In the place where I make no mistakes / In the place where I have what it takes" and turns it to the eternal: "I'm never gonna know you now / But I'm gonna love you anyhow." As we mentioned in our first-round coverage of "Waltz #2," after his suicide or murder, it's not hard to read this as his epitaph.
Smith's the big favorite coming into this game, and we'd still give him the edge just on the basis of the very last chord in the song and the way that last repeated line resonates and holds us, but it's hard to know how these two will face off against each other. Depends, we suppose, who, if anyone, is sober.
(1) Elliott Smith, "Waltz #2"
(8) The Replacements, "Here Comes a Regular"
FINAL SCORE: ELLIOTT SMITH 113, REPLACEMENTS 88