Patti Smith | Outside Society

Columbia/Arista/Legacy (2011)
By ZETH LUNDY  |  August 10, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars


Punk-rock-poet-priestess, Mapplethorpian-anti-pin-up-queen, rabble-rousing-riot-grrl-archetype: Patti Smith is your go-to rock icon when it comes to underbelly doppelgangers of Pat Benatar or Stevie Nicks. Since the release of her 1975 debut Horses, she's done the audacious thing (30-odd years later, "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" still shocks), the Top 20 thing (she made Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night" a viable, and successful, single), and the oddball reinvention cover thing (her take on Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," with none other than Sam Shepard on banjo, is a spooky Americana delight). This 18-song primer, out August 23, spans Smith's entire career, thankfully skirting the more ponderous poet-concept pieces in favor of straight-up rock music. Indeed, although she's best known for those late-'70s Hotel Chelsea/CBGB-era fringe-punk albums, Outside Society illuminates some of Smith's underrated pop-minded phases. "Dancing Barefoot" and the disco-tinged "Frederick" from the 1979 Todd Rundgren-produced Wave are particularly awesome in a nonconformist-tastefully-goes-with-the-flow kinda way. Dream of Life (1988) yielded "People Have the Power" and "Up There Down There," fully established in AOR aesthetics but still ripe with passion. Later, Smith's inevitable Dylanesque delivery came into fruition on the tough mid-'90s rocker "Summer Cannibals," co-written by her late husband Fred "Sonic" Smith — that sinewy, wise tone of voice that endorses a certain kind of distinction.
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