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ALBUM REVIEW / POP

Smith Offers a Moving, Emotional 'Peace'

September 27, 1997|ELYSA GARDNER

*** PATTI SMITH: "Peace and Noise;" Arista

*** Patti Smith, "Peace and Noise," Arista. Smith is that rarest of middle-aged rock artists--someone who has kept her edge but also maintained her dignity. Having made an acclaimed comeback with last year's "Gone Again," the seminal punk poet sounds confident but hardly complacent on these songs, which take her--and us--through a predictable maelstrom of emotions.

Always an acutely expressive singer with a penchant for dramatic gestures, Smith found bittersweet inspiration in the death of her husband three years ago. Though this album isn't quite as ridden with ghosts as its predecessor, themes of loss and transcendence figure into many songs, from the gently elegiac "Blue Poles" to the hip-hop-laced "Dead City," on which Smith's vocals build from a rhythmic chant to a deep, desperate wail. On "Spell," she again falls into contemplative mode, reciting an Allen Ginsberg poem over hypnotic acoustic guitar riffs.

But if Smith's new work is typically intense, much of it is also quite accessible, from the darkly infectious "Waiting Underground" to the sinuous, glowing "Last Call." So even if the incantation "Memento Mori" doesn't hold your interest through its entire 10 minutes, you'll find plenty to move you here.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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