‘Oh my land,’ sings/drawls/declaims Patti Smith within bars of the start of Trampin', ‘what be troubling you?’ The answer? Plenty. Smith is categoric in her castigation of the Iraqi war abroad and the erosion of civil liberties at home. But the real weight of Trampin' comes from the exacting price that brutality draws from all those involved.
Smith has not mellowed with age. Which, at a time when righteous indignation is in short supply, is probably a good thing. An artist whose 1975 début Horses set the world aflame, her work has been consistently refined and concentrated to the extent that, when she speaks, we listen. Although Smith's band still boasts its muscular, rocky attack, it's the shamanistic power of her performance that we really adhere to. The deceptively languid style on ‘Radio Baghdad’ carries the song through its full 12 minutes, its rich imagery flicking from past to present – from an evocation of the splendours of Mesopotamia to the terror of an air raid.
The territory is perfect for Smith. Her language has a poetic vivacity that's never been stronger or more angry. The album is an incitement to compassion as much as it is a journey that ends with the dignified peace of the old spiritual song ‘Trampin'’.Louise Gray
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