Patti Smith Gung Ho (Arista)

SXSW Records

Record Reviews

Patti Smith

Gung Ho (Arista)

Blazing out of a foxhole of loss and dour contemplation, Patti Smith unfurls the flag and raises it high. Rock's noble standard bearer is back, Gung Ho, and with a vengeance. When we last checked in, Smith was dusting off the ashes of one too many funeral pyres, making her way up from the bowels of Hades into the light. Considering the gravity of her previous Gone Again and Peace and Noise -- both recorded during times of mourning, first for her husband, the MC5's Fred "Sonic" Smith, then for her brother Todd, and finally for her dear friend Robert Mapplethorpe -- Patti's come a long way to lead the march of the living again. It begins with Jay Dee Daugherty's tom-toms, a Spector-al nod to anthem pop that tapers into a subtle, yet powerful ode to Mother Teresa and the honor of duty, "One Voice." The significance of this opening salvo is monumental. Smith's recurring career theme of open-hearted servitude is summed up in this little flower: "Moved by love to serve, we celebrate all merit in life ... All action great and small received joyfully." Smith wastes no time establishing another theme in the next song, "Lo and Beholden," the story of Salome and the Dance of the Seven Veils. Smith uses this classic Lenny Kaye and Blue Oyster-tinged lilt to unveil the modern tale of youth's exploitation, an uncomfortable theme which comes up again later, and will probably keep the radio-ready anthem "Glitter in Their Eyes" off most commercial airwaves, which rely so heavily on a parasitic umbilical cord to young demographics for survival. "Glitter" is Gung Ho's talkin' WTO blues single. Its roller-coaster guitar and tambourine shimmy rattle with urgency, backup vocals from Michael Stipe, and unabashed lyrics telling it like it is: "They'll trade you up, trade you down, your body a commodity ..." Named in typical Smith stream-of-consciousness fashion, Gung Ho is a pastiche of Ho Chi Mihn, Gunga Din, her father (who's pictured on the cover and who Smith's mother described as such), and of course, the unbridled enthusiam the phrase has come to represent. Gung Ho will also come to represent as perfect an epiphany as rock & roll can achieve. (Friday, Outdoor Stage, Waterloo Park, 7:30pm)

*****

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