http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/907011b3e7fed22a86c87aea3ab99c3875766104.jpg Peace And Noise

Patti Smith

Peace And Noise

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
October 6, 1997

This album — like Gone Again, Patti Smith's 1996 memorial to her dear departed — is alive with ghosts: the patient spirits bearing silent witness in "Waiting Underground"; the young soldier who is incinerated in a copter crash and propelled to eternal peace by Smith and her stampeding band in the long, loud studio improvisation "Memento Mori"; the late Allen Ginsberg, whose "Footnote to Howl" is the lyric meat of "Spell." Even the guitars have a spectral quality — the spindly picking in "Spell," the gauzy distortion in "Waiting Underground." And in the bleak beauty "Last Call," written by Smith and guitarist Oliver Ray in anguished response to the Heaven's Gate suicides, Michael Stipe's singing echoes Smith's maternal psalmody like a whisper from the other side of consciousness.

But Peace and Noise also hums with the crude energy of survival, a whiplash mix of scarred joy, big anger and the heavy weight of responsibility. In "Dead City," a blunt, metallic indictment of scorched-earth greed that sounds like "Because the Night" kicked black and blue, she spits and snarls the words as if on the verge of retching. The garage-jangle hymn "Whirl Away" is part sermon, part elegy, Smith's voice choked with a mother's disbelief at the cutthroat trade in precious teenage lives.

Compared with the fragile intimacy of Gone Again, Peace and Noise is stern in mood, often gruff in tone. But Smith and her band — Ray, guitarist Lenny Kaye, drummer J.D. Daugherty and bassist Tony Shanahan — burrow into the music with an earthy, focused empathy eerily close to that of Bob Dylan and the Band's on The Basement Tapes. Smith even quotes Dylan at one point ("But nothin' was delivered/Nothin' good was comin'"), as she chastises herself for self-pity and inaction in the tense shuffle "Don't Say Nothing": "I just stood there/I couldn't believe it/But I didn't say nothin'." If this album has a single moral, it is this: With so many gone and so much left to lose, the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »