Patti Smith ‘Banga.’ (Sony)
I first heard Patti Smith courtesy of U2. Her song ‘Dancing Barefoot’ was the b-side of ‘When Loves Comes To Town,’ which I bought reduced either in Smiths or Woolies at the impressionable age of thirteen. I played the b-side incessantly. It was a dark, betwitching number. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but it was cool as.
At some point in my final year of school, a friend lent me Horses, her highly regarded (and rightly so) debut from 1975. ‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins -but not mine,’ she sang defiantly, on the album’s opening song ‘Gloria:In Excelsis Deo.’ It was dangerously thrilling and exciting -not least considering I’d grown up in a manse. Later on that year, Horses played out over the PA at REM’s big enormo-dome gig. It felt so cool to be alble to recognise that album straight off.
And so we come to the present day, and Ms. Smith unleashes her latest album, and her first album of new material since 2004’s Trampin.’ Much like the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy ten years later, Horses was a such a strong, defining statement that it can be difficult for records to live up to it. But she continues in her own vein, producing an album that is distinctively Patti Smith, and enlisting the help of well-suited collaborators. These include her son and daughter, Television’s Tom Verlaine, and long-term foil Lenny Kaye.
Smith is a poet, and some of the tracks are spoken-word, including incendiary backing. Additionally there’s also her touching tributes to both the victims of last year’s Japanese earthquake ‘Fuki-san’ and Amy Winehouse ‘This Is The Girl,’ which might just be the most memorable number here. Touchingly simple, it’s almost like a hymn. The album closes with an inspired reading of Neil Young’s ‘After The Goldrush’ which she brings right up to date, and the effect of the children’s choir on the song, is moving rather than trite as it might be in the hands of many others.
An artist still with so much to say.
Banga is out now on Sony.