Category Archives: Patti Smith

Waves-PATTI SMITH-1979

It’s a Patti Smith album that I like!! Finally. I have not heard all of the Patti Smith albums that have been released but I doubt that any one of them is better than Waves. Wikipedia states that “this album has been critically maligned for it’s polished production and conventionality”. Well, if it has, then it is a shame, and quite misleading. Yes, no more spoken word poetry (yay!!) and no more of trying to be “godmother of punk” (yay!!!) and no more of trying to be “counterculture” (yay!!!). Its pretty poppish rock’n’roll, with strong emphasis on sweet melody and the traditional verse-chorus structure. A Byrds cover!! A song that rips off “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” in some respects. A psychedelic overtone in the latter half!! Musically rich, at last. One of the songs reminds me of Elton John, and is boring (I am not implying that there is any relation between the two things, Elton John’s gay fans.) The title track reverts back to the spoken shtick, again. Despite a weak last 8 minutes, this album saw Patti at her strongest, since there are 7 songs that are good out of a total of 9. And that too at the stretch. She should have stopped after “Seven Ways of Going”, but what the hell, it is an improvement on Radio Ethiopia and Horses, for fucking chrissakes.

Ok, I get it. She is a love it/hate it or take it/leave it type. If you love it/take it, you are welcome to the land of whisperings to screaming in the space of a second/ lyrics that are supposed to be mystic and revolutionary/ guitar noise. Me, I am not too hot and bothered about getting it. I got other things to do than listening to a woman pretending to be a rock poet. There is a pile of Meshuggah albums on my radar right now, and all of it seems to be technical noodling. This is because I like extremes. On one hand I have Patti who tried to be resonant and touching and on the other hand we have Meshuggah who apparently are recommended listening for anyone writing a calculus exam. Lemme say that I would prefer to fail such a test.

Oh and after this Patti Smith and Group disbanded and she disappeared for a good decade or so before coming back solo, but with Waves, one chapter of the musical journey of the rock artist known as Patti Smith definitely closed. Maybe I have not been able to understand what she was all about because of the generation, cultural and social gap, which can be described as “yawning” to say the least. However, I did listen to all the songs and found that only Easter and Waves have songs that I can honestly say that I like without compromising my position as a “free from all influence, honest, amateur music critic”. So Rolling Stones and Pitchfork can shove their reviews of Horses in *insert appropriate bodily part as per your liking*.

Recommended Songs – Frederick, Dancing Barefoot, Citizenship, Revenge.

-Baba T


Easter-PATTI SMITH-1978

So Patti Smith combines the youthful exuberance and spoken word of Horses and Radio Ethiopia (Babelogue, the original rock brat!!) with the punkishness of Gloria (the catchy, simple 3 chord Rock’n’Roll Nigger) and she also “gets” religion (Easter, We Three, and Privilege (Set Me Free) which makes her sound like a naughty, wayward singer in the church choir (my brother said that, actually.) I hate the fact that she got religion, which clinches what I have been saying all along – it was all a front, all the “Jesus died for somebody else’s sins but not mine” bullshit down the drain, huh Patti? In any case I hate a person who “gets” religion, because I hate religion and feel that it is corrosive to the progress of mankind, but what do I know? Coming back to Easter it is a pretty nice album, middle of the road except for the Babelogue+Rock’n’Roll Nigger part which I like, yes, I like the spoken word 2 minute part too, which is a first. “Because the Night” was the hit single and it is quite the first pop song she ever did, but not in the league of the cuts on the next album, Waves, which came out in ’79, and was the last ever Patti Smith and Group album.

To put it in a nutshell, Easter is my second most favorite Patti Smith album, which is not saying much since I like only two albums (this and Waves) and around the time I started listening to Easter, I genuinely started liking Patti Smith’s voice and the use to which it has been put on here. Even though I hate religion, that does not mean I do not like music inspired by religious thoughts/feelings like some of the songs on Easter.

Recommended Songs – Babelogue, Rock’n’Roll Nigger, We Three, Easter, Because of the Night, Ghost Dance.

-Baba T


Radio Ethiopia-PATTI SMITH-1976

So what happened was that Patti Smith put on Horses on the record player one fine day and suddenly it struck her that there was no music on the record. “It’s just me murmuring hippie mumbo jumbo” she said and decided that something had to be done about this. Therefore we got Radio Ethiopia which is a step up from Horses but fails spectacularly in some vital aspects, one of them being that it fails to entertain me, and drives me into a stupor, not the lovely blessed sleep of Sigur Ros or Pink Floyd, but the boring ass stupor caused by *name of shitty bands I don’t like*.

What Patti Smith thought was that her band was the equivalent of the Doors and that she was the female equivalent of Jim Morrison. If Patti Smith & Friends had been tighter, meaner and more focused and more earthy and relevant then what they would have been at best would be something like the inferior version of Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Gang. What they turned out to be in the end was watered down 70’s pop rock with an old lady singing odes of praise to her husband. What Patti Smith failed to understand is that it is ok to have 9 minute songs when you are called Yes or King Crimson and have Rick Wakeman and Robert Fripp in your band but if it’s just Patti Smith with a scraggly, hoarse voice that is off key and a bunch of no-namers in your backing band then its best to stick to short 4 minute basic punkish rock songs about having sex and drugs ala The Ramones.

Having said all that, it was relief to me that this album has got some music. Real guitars at last, all the way, well, not all the way, but most of it. No 10 minute wails about suicides, so that is a step up. However the number of songs that are good is still not a lot i.e. only 2.5 outta 9. This album shows that Patti had the potential to be good, she only had to do the basics right. For example, the opener, Ask the Angels. Nothing much, a piano in the background with basic guitar chords, but dang effective, coupled with Patti’s vocals which suddenly start sounding a lot more meaningful, just because she’s not acting the heroine for once. However the rest of the album (most of it) blows. The title track is a 9 minute snooze fest, with the spoken word poetry crap making a return. Pumping (My heart) is a generic, oh so generic rock’n’roll song with the irritating one note piano banging away reminding me of such immortal classics like “If You Don’t Like Rock’n’Roll” and “Rock’n’Roll is King”. This doesn’t sound right. At all.

Recommended Songs: – Ask the Angels, Pissing in a River, Poppies (some of it at least).

-Baba T


Horses-PATTI SMITH-1975

This has been generally described as Patti Smith at her most raw, punkish and original self. Well if that is so, then I do not want her raw, punkish and original self. I am gonna come out and say it: – I do not like Patti Smith’s Horses, in fact I do not even like Patti Smith. She was supposed to be this break through female artist who gave punk and rock’n’roll in general some girl power, for the lack of a better word, since I despise the word “feminism”. If punk getting some girl power means that I have to sit through 9 minute spoken poetry sessions with a bland reggae beat/repetitive piano note, well then, fuck it, okay? Oh, and did I mention that the spoken poetry is pretentious and complete horse crap? At TDSR here, I look at the music only, so no matter how “influential” or “revolutionary” an album is declared to be by the world in general and the professional music reviewing community in particular, if the music on it does nothing for me, straight it goes into the recycle bin.

Oh, but wait. This album won’t go into the bin because it’s got Gloria which acts as the saving grace. Now that is something which I can truly call a powerful statement, lyrically as well as musically, the latter being indispensable, while the former helps along the latter. Abandoning all vestiges of any “traditional” song structure, Smith just barges in and goes with the rhythm in a free flowing manner, reminiscent of Baba O Riley (nowhere near The Who in musical terms obviously). Yes. This I can enjoy. This I can swallow. I love the way in which the tempo keeps increasing in direct proportion to the intensity of the screams of “GLOO-RR-IAAAA!!” Speaking of The Who, there is also a very punk, hard rock Patti Smithized version of My Generation on this album which adds a lot of noise and spunk to the original, though not by much.

Oh my god, she has attitude!! Yeah, right.

So there you have it. This album is famous because it was untraditional and supposedly “broke barriers”. Women are supposed to sing break up songs and emotional ballads and are supposed to sing in key!! They are supposed to be called seductive names and crap!! Patti Smith said “Fuck You” and did everything that was not expected of a female artist, and we got landed with Horses-shit. Sometimes she sounds genuine, but most times she comes off as a Morrison rip off, with not even half the talent. And that’s that in a nutshell.

I did not want to put her in the punk category, for various reasons, not the least being that one listen to Ramones will convince you that it would be travesty to classify Patti Smith with them, therefore I did what I do when confused and threw her into the Classic Rock category.

Recommended Songs: – Gloria

-Baba T


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