I've avoided writing this review for some time because it's
not easy to "critique" an indie rock legend, especially one
with the integrity, lyric poetry, and genuine artistry of Patti
Smith. Indeed, this review is not so much a critique as a poetic
comparison of her earlier work on Easter to Gung
Ho, her latest offering.
Looking at the photos in the liner notes of Gung Ho,
I was reminded of the artwork in Easter. Both
have images of flags and fabrics, haunting pictures of Patti
Smith and the band. On Easter, those pictures
are black and white, presenting stark and gritty images of struggle,
heritage, patriotism, and war: Patty trapped in black jeans
and a blindfold, Patti draped in white sheets. In contrast,
Gung Ho's artwork is cast in shades of muted blue,
red, grey, and green and depicts rememberance, reflection, even
meditation. In two different pictures, Patti sits contemplative
and looking at something we can't see-while blurred lines obscure
the rough edges of stars and stripes hung behind her.
These images mirror the music of the two albums. Easter
is a forceful, explosive, even angry manifesto with heavy guitar
and snarled vocals. The music crashes together with bold black
and white sounds, painted with conflict and frustration. On
the contrary, Gung Ho is the sound of wisdom and
experience. The guitar work is subtle, exotic, and rich like
well crafted mahogany; the lyrics indicate resolve and inner
peace-the connectionedness of sexuality, pain, passion, and
death. Gung Ho is not an album for rebellious
youth but rather a patient journey of the spirit and senses.
In short, what is my "advice" for those who adore the work
of a younger Patti? Don't expect to be blown out of your shoes
at first hearing Gung Ho. Listen to it several
times while resting, while meditating, while writing. Its depth,
richness, and wisdom will reveal itself to you.