Black-clad demon spawn of Lautreamont and the Quin-Tones, chanter, ranter, allien succubus, prophet of sex and power and ecstasy, Patti Smith was a sublimely weird rock'n'roll creation, someone who claimed she'd learned how to walk by watching Dylan in Don't Look Back. On Horses, Smith tried to take the spoken voice into the realm of feedback and spillage where the Stooges had taken the electric guitar. But her poetic approach to rock didn't sound effete because her poetic rhythms were so steeped in the meter of doo-wop and R&B. When she first started perfoming with fellow writer Lenny Caye on guitar, she was as likely to cover "Down the Aisle of Love" or "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" as to tell the story of Scheherazade. Reciting her poetry in her South Jersey accent over piano, she sounds like Burroughs than like the Shangri-Las in "I Can Never Go Home Anymore" or "Past, Present, and Future". Her independent debut single "Piss Factory"/"Hey Joe" proved that the animating rock rhythms of her voice were intricate enough to get on the good foot. By the time Smith recorded Horses in 1975 with John Cale, her group had transcended its technical limitations to sound like a tough punk band, and if the rhythms of her voice are what make the music go, Jay Daugherty's drums keep up. Smith begins Van Morrison's "Gloria" with the famous proclamation, " Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine/ my sins my own, they belong to me", and whips the music into a whirling frenzy. "Kimberly" is a moving tale of sisterly bonding, set to the shuffle from Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs' "Stay", while "Land" blasts through a tale of knives, cars, and rebirth that would be stunning even without the salutary invocations to the watusi and the memorable chant, "Go Rimbaud!". Horses isn't very loud or guitar-heavy, but it surges with a wit and intensity unmatced elsewhere in punk, and although countless listeners, male and female, have responded to Horses, no musicians anywhere have caught up with its sound.


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