Tuesday, July 3, 2007

No. 44: Horses

Band: Patti Smith
Album: Horses
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The CBGB scene wasn't just Talking Heads and CBGB. The post-feminist screamer wasn't just provocative (“Women is the nigger of the world” she sang), but soulful and had a hell of a band to back her up (including Lenny Kaye of the MC5).
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Soulful or not, her voice isn't that good. Moreover, the whole record sounds like a poetry slam meeting gone awry.
Best song: “Gloria” is the song everyone knows. It's not terrible, therefore it's the best song on there.
Worst song: Everything else.
Is it awesome?: I don't think so.

I normally like female singers. I particularly like Cat Power, Tara Jane O'Neil and Elizabeth Elmore (of The Reputation and Sarge). I certainly don't have anything against feminism; In fact, I consider myself something of a feminist.

But, I just can't dig on “Horses.” At a time when music was changing, Smith was so avant garde, she apparently made people's heads spin. She doesn't do that to me (I'm not shocked easily) and I certainly don't have much use for the kind of English major dropout bullshit she was so famous for. Again, it's poetry night at the wannabe revolutionary coffee shop. That's not appealing to me.

I do understand the importance and intelligence of the album. While I'm a huge fan of literate rock music, I think there's a certain amount of, you know, melody that's important. “Horses” doesn't have much of that.


fft said...

This album almost defines Rock & Roll to me. Someone female, a little pretentious and pompous who cant sing really well and shouldn't normally be making rock records. Yet this stuff totally rocks. And sometimes Rock and Roll is about letting it just hang out.

Check out the clip of her on SNL in the mid 70's doing "Gloria". I would never go see her in a venue that could hold more than 50 people, but in an intimate space I think she would rock pretty hard.

Matt said...

i saw patti smith play this whole album at an in-store at tower records in manhattan in 2005 for the 30th anniversary reissue. i wasn't familiar with this album at all, but i knew the name because she is still pretty popular among spoken word people. i was just walking by on my way to meet my sister at her work and saw the line and the poster, so i thought i would check it out. the band played it acoustic. patti came out and took a polaroid of the audience. when she opened her mouth i was amazed that this old woman who looked like susan sontag could sing (she has tamed her voice considerably in the intervening 30 years i guess). i remember really liking what i heard and several weeks later 'redondo beach' was stuck in my head after only hearing it once, so i downloaded the album. i'll just say that it isn't something i listen to very often, but i think it deserves respect. i still really like redondo beach. it's really punchy and it's one of the early reggae inspired punk-ish songs, yet it isn't a stupid reggae imitation, and the lyrics aren't as waxy as some of smith's other songs. it would be a good song for a better band to cover.
i remember thinking lenny kaye (not knowing who he was at the time) seemed like a big dork because he had on an italian tucked in shirt, pointy leather shoes, and sort of swayed from side to side as he played the guitar. little did i know he was a real garage rocker in the day. hell, he compiled nuggets.