Patti Smith records are as much about proto-rap poetic ritual as verse-chorus rocking. Her first set of new music since Just Kids – the 2010 memoir that found her dancing barefoot into the literary mainstream – has some sweet moments of song. But the real magic happens when words start flying off the grooves. "We'll break all the rules," she sings on "April Fool," a beckoning single that breaks none but boasts exquisite guitar by Smith's old pal Tom Verlaine. He also illuminates "Nine," a gleaming folk-rocker that imagines the sort of extended collaboration that might've been had the two not taken separate roads. Bowing to the Russian filmmaker who also inspired Geoff Dyer's recent tour-de-force Zona, "Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter)" spaces out in Sun Ra soul-jazz territory, while "Seneca" is a mourning waltz that floats on accordion and fiddle. The incantatory peak is "Constantine's Dream," an extended anthem to art-making which replaces the snubbed Jesus of her signature "Gloria" with a snubbed St. Francis and makes the painter Piero della Francesca sound like an awesomely rock'n'roll dude. On a lovely coda of Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush" featuring her kids Jesse and Jackson, Smith instructs "look at mother nature on the run in the 21st century." She's a mother who still ain't runnin' from nothin'.
Listen to 'Banga':
• Photos: Random Notes