Horses (Patti Smith)Album |
Author-turned-singer uses punk's energy as a starting point for her incantatory poetic declamations rather than as an end in itself
The revisionist idea that the Ramones were at the forefront of the NYC punk scene has unnecessarily constricted the concept of what is and is not Punk. While no one disputes the awesomeness of da brudders' first few albums, an over-reliance on their cartoonishly one-dimensional sound has over the decades turned what began as a rule-busting artistic explosion into a genre as hidebound as rockabilly, with too many bands happy to regurgitate barely-disguised "Blitzkrieg Bop" rewrites. In contrast, The Patti Smith Group's first album—which predates the Ramones' debut by six months—is equally devoted to the excitement of pre-psychedelic rock: its most notorious tracks are frenzied reworkings of garage rock standards "Gloria" and "Land of 1000 Dances." (Let's not forget that lead guitarist Lenny Kaye compiled the 1972 double album Nuggets, the Ur-text of the garage revival.) But Smith, her talented band, and producer John Cale use punk's energy as a starting point for her incantatory poetic declamations rather than as an end in itself. More conventional art rockers like the reggae-tinged "Redondo Beach" and the transcendent "Break It Up" are less sonically aggressive, but explore emotional and lyrical terrain rarely charted at the time. A Green Day fan might not entirely recognize Horses as a punk album, but it's one of the punk revolution's key starting points.