Patti Smith R. Meltzer - Essay

R. Meltzer

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[There] really ain't no way I'm gonna be anything but thrilled to my shorthairs by a Patti LP and [Radio Ethiopia is] no exception. Altho the last one was a bit less grave cause y'know her live show (still—when it's on—the best by a cunny since Billie Holiday and best by either gonad group since James Morrison's prime) has its moments of excruciating gravity but it's also got her laffing it up and spitting on the stage. Like the title cut's great and tense and all that but it could've extracted a wee bit more from the lesson of the Fugs' "Virgin Forest" (y'know like even the first experiment in self-conscious homogeneous length hadda yield to the inevitability of self-parody and stuff like that) cause like you can't do "Goin' Home"—"Sister Ray"—"The End" forever cause after a while it just kinda bristles with more than a morsel of, uh, datedness per se. Less Velvets in evidence than last time tho but in its stead you got Patti paying abundant vocal homage to currently faddish punkdom (wake of the Velvets anyway) which is okay for the band to indulge in but why waste your pipes straining for functionless punk poses that make you force your notes thru all sortsa dumb strainers like George Foreman tryin to punch in a straight line? Like this sweety was already vocally past punk forever by '74 … and by the winter of '75 she was so far ahead of all other femmesingers in the orchestration-of-it-all that almost anything with an intense easy-croon feel for any kinda cosmos sounded like it could very well've been somethin Pat just dashed off…. Singin on side one of this one sounds like too much needless struggle.

But that's mostly just nitpickin cause "Ain't It Strange" is an improvement on [Jefferson Starship's] "Miracles" at its own game…. "Pumping" is as rewardingly hot & desperate as trash pulp sex circa '58 and "Distant Fingers" is "Third Stone from the Sun" as told by the stone (as well as a nifty play on Pearlman-Roeser's "ETI" [performed by Blue Oyster Cult] so it's really a bonafide certified good' un, y'know?

R. Meltzer, "'A Certified "Good 'un," Y' Know?'" in Creem (© copyright 1977 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), January, 1977, p. 56.