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Patti Smith – Outside Society

Emily Jackett


“I haven’t fucked much with the past, but I’ve fucked plenty with the future.” Outside Society,  Patti Smith’s brand new and remastered retrospective proves her wrong.

It’s pieces like Babelogue from Easter (1978) which turned me on to Patti. It’s the wild expressive poetry, the outrageous Godmother of Punk,  spoken word and stream of consciousness which drives me wild, brings out some maddened, frenzied animal, dancing and painting the walls in red wine. Easter has been eclipsed by Smith’s most widely known song Because The Night,  co-written with Bruce Springsteen. It climbed up the charts and is an enduring hit, Outside Society emphasises this aspect of her work, but it is only one of the many facets of Patti Smith’s career and artistic persona.

For the most part, Outside Society concentrates on a collection of the shorter and radio friendly tunes. The album doesn’t do such an epic figure justice but perhaps hits closer to the mark as as a consistent, quite chronological ‘greatest hits’ collection. But it’s Patti Smith. She deserves a little more than this.

Outside Society consists of 18 tracks, 13 of these can be found on the greatest-hits half of Land. It’s good to see a few of the lesser-aired get extra exposure, rehearing Summer Cannibals and Glitter In Their Eyes has been a solid reminder of how much I love Patti; however not all of the tracks have proven themselves to stand the test of time. Two covers have been thrown in to the mix, an unexpected unconvincing version of  The Byrds So You Want to be a Rock’n’Roll Star and a much more interesting de-grunged , Banjo-ified cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit with an expansive poetic interlude over loose, lovely mad strings. Smith is 65 now and her vocals are as  ever impressive.

If this album brings eternal tracks like Gloria,  Barefoot Dancing and Rock and Roll- Nigger to a new generation, or folks who’ve known the weight of living under rocks their whole lives, then it will have been successful. But If you’re in need of an education, an overview of the legendary Patti Smith, then look to her first compilation Land (1975 – 2002) as an accompaniment to her memoir Just Kids which recently won the National Book Award, heralding the release of Outside Society. It’s the prodigious poetic gestures side by side with the epic punk/rock figure which makes Patti what she is, they need to be taken together. Like codeine and gin.