Patti Smith Steve Simels - Essay

Steve Simels

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[If] ever there was an adult record, ["Horses"] is it. It's a fiendishly difficult piece of work, and I suspect that as a result it's going to polarize people like crazy, which is too bad, because for all its overreaching, I can't remember a first album that exhibited such overwhelming potential.

What it boils down to is whether or not we are willing to admit that rock means anything more than "it's got a good beat and you can dance to it."…

And so, either you'll be simply knocked out by what Patti is attempting with "Horses"—the mating of "traditional" poetic diction (in her case the Symbolists and the Beats) with the diction of rock and creating an appropriate musical style to go with it—or you'll hear only a mannered, technically limited chick singer waxing obscure in front of a monochromatic rock band, the whole sounding like an only slightly less pretentious version of the Velvet Underground. I am myself convinced up front, despite the album's limp production job, because there's real passion here—you can tell what a labor of love this was for Patti, on all levels. (p. 42)

Steve Simels, in Stereo Review (reprinted by permission of the author), February, 1976.