atlanta constitution review of gone again

[from "Rage, resonance shape liturgy at a madonna's shrine" by Steve Dollar, Atlanta Constitution, June 20, 1996]

Any notion that motherhood in suburban Michigan and eight years away from a recording studio might have blunted Patti Smith 's creative edge is rousingly trashed on this long-awaited return to form. Now pushing 50, Smith is one middle-aged former rock star who returns to the fray with something besides nostalgia to sell.

She's evolved from the swirling, free-associating androgyne of her punk-fueled debut, 1975's ecstatic and dreamy Horses, into a nurturing figure of maternal wisdom. Once a wannabe martyr who identified with Joan of Arc and snapped her neck after spinning off a concert stage, she's now a madonna. Time and sometimes harsh experience—the deaths of husband Fred "Sonic" Smith, her brother, and close friend and former lover Robert Mapplethorpe—have deepened Smith's perspective, and the sometimes raging, sometimes delicate music she makes here resonates with spirit.

Though the opening "Gone Again," with the jagged guitars of Tom Verlaine and Lenny Kaye, and a cover of Bob Dylan's "Wicked Messenger," aim to affirm Smith's rock 'n' roll credentials, much of the album dwells in ambient reverie (the intro to "About a Boy," the singer's memorial to Kurt Cobain) and rustic strumming that would suit recent R.E.M. ("Beneath the Southern Cross"). Not without patches of self-indulgence (what would a Smith album be without them?) and thorny tangles of lyric, "Gone Again" is foremost elegiac, yet rarely feels funereal. Hang with it, and its songs begin to cast the hypnotic twilight spell of the two CDs you'd most likely place next to it in the carousel: Automatic for the People and Dylan's World Gone Wrong.

Copyright © Steve Dollar 1996

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