Poet-cum-rocker Patti Smith has produced another brilliant album.
The tracks on Trampin’ cohere with a finesse that comes from 30 years of creating both art and music and maintaining their points of intersection. Gracefully, Smith continues to evolve off the map. Beginning with the sheer joy-inducing “Jubilee,” the album ranges from the Dylan-esque “Stride of the Mind” to the experimental “My Blakean Year” and “Gandhi,” to the instantly timeless cut “Cash.” The album closes with the title track, which is an intimate duet featuring Smith’s daughter Jess on piano. Something of a blues/gospel-inspired tune, Smith tries to “make heaven [her] home,” and though heartbreaking, it remains hopeful.
Subdued are the blatant and politically ideological diatribes of Smith’s poetics whereby rigid demands for change, as permutated through suffering and metaphor, become burning pleas for peace and humanity. Smith hasn’t renounced her politics by any means; her lyrical objective is wrought more on introspection and eloquent expression than generalization. Then again, the best song on the album is also the most politically ambitious.
The political crux of Trampin’ unfolds as boisterous guitar riffs rupture the lone lilting of a clarinet and Smith’s distinctive and assured voice on the epic 12-minute track “Radio Baghdad.” Recounting the horrific bombing tactics administered March 20, 2003, Smith raises the voices of the now year-old victims: “We are just / Your Arabian Nightmare / We mean nothing to you.”
In the end, the poise and craftsmanship of Trampin’ is unmatched, worth every minute, and is a testament of one of the seminal poets/musicians we are privileged to still have creating impassioned music. Hallelujah.
[Joey Dominguez is glad the Distillers have rescheduled and no one will taste a knuckle sandwich.]