Coming hard on the heels of the bereavement that inspired Gone Again, Peace & Noise finds Smith still sifting through the ashes. She sounds more confident here; less shell-shocked, giving her a greater degree of control but inevitably (and no doubt thankfully) losing some of the raw hurt. As befits the title, Smith broadens her focus to include loss on a national and historical level. “1959″ muses on possibilities vanished and squandered, juxtaposing the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the rise of American prosperity: “In the land of the Impala, baby, things were looking fine.”
“Memento Mori” looks back to Smith’s own past. The story of a Vietnam veteran killed in action stretches out over 10 minutes, its mixture of evocative blank verse and primitive rock ‘n’ roll (in this case a fitful evocation of the Bo Diddley beat) harking back to Horses‘ “Land”. Some of the songs take on an impersonal cast as Smith strays into more far-reaching subjects, but Peace & Noise proved that Gone Again‘s return to form was no fluke and Smith was back for good this time.