Trampin’ – Patti Smith
Patti Smith was a poet first and a rocker second. The music wasn't
straining to burst fully formed from her breast, the attitude was. When
Trampin’ sticks to that basic punk-rock aesthetic – attitude first,
music second – Smith is at her best: edgy, confrontational, in your face
spittin' passion. She wears her heart and her politics on her sleeve, and
they are both better served when the music is punched up with aggression.
"Jubilee" is a call to arms, a call to action, a call to stand up waving
that long bony finger and screaming for justice in a country that seems to
have jumped the rails. "Stride of the Mind" (perhaps the album's best
track) and "Ghandi" spit similar venom.
As for the rest of the album… um… quite frankly, I both like and admire
those four songs so much that I'd rather just stop and say, "I'll never
listen to the other seven tracks again," but I suppose that would be a cop
out. Smith's more personal efforts (I'm thinking of "Cartwheels," "My
Blakean Year," and "Peaceable Kingdom" here) are overwrought both lyrically
and vocally. Smith's strengths are in growling, indignation, and righteous
anger, not singing, consolation, and personal revelation.
While the abundant misfires (insert your own Patriot/ Scud gag here) taint
the album, the four clean strikes stand as excellent protest music. The
rules for strong protest music are simple. Say it straight. Say it with
indignation. Cut to the bone. Leave your fist up. At her best, Smith hits
it right on the head.