Patti Smith Group, Easter

Sam Adams

By Sam Adams

on 08.16.11 in Reviews


Patti Smith Group

The title of Smith’s third album has more to do with her recovery from a 1977 stage accident than the resolution of the artistic tensions that plagued Radio Ethiopia, but the resurrection is just as dramatic. That Smith co-wrote “Because the Night” with Bruce Springsteen could have been the final proof of her surrender to commercialism; instead, it was proof that she could reach outward and in at the same time.

No longer trying to be a star; she just is one

“Because the Night” is an anomaly on Easter and Smith’s career in general, the rare song on which she shares credit with someone outside of her inner circle; the unlikely collaboration came as a result of a nervous phone call from producer Jimmy Iovine, who failed to see a potential single among the tracks Smith and her band were laying down. But by this point, Smith was Springsteen’s equal, if not commercially, in her sense of clarity and self-possession. Even erratic notions like “Space Monkey” and the misguided metaphor of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger” are put across with such force that their shortcomings are burned away.

In stark contrast to the cluttered sound of its predecessor, the songs on Easter have room to breathe. There’s a sense of space in and around them, whether it’s concert ambience of “Babelogue” or the acoustic single-mic vibe of “Ghost Dance.” The place Smith has found herself isn’t what those whose lives were changed by Horses might have expected, or even wanted, but she sounds as if she belongs there. She’s no longer trying to be a star; she just is one.