Friday, June 04, 2004


As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican, June 4, 2004

Patti Smith is pushing 60, but her new album Trampin’ shows her rocking as hard as ever.

In fact Trampin’ is an outright call to celebration in the face of adversity, to “be a jubilee” as the first song says, to let the doves multiply even though the hawks are circling.

The song “My Blakean Year” (with a melody and beat that will remind old fans of “Dancing Barefoot”) espouses a similar creed: “Throw off your stupid cloak/Embrace all that you fear/for joy shall conquer all despair/ in my Blakean year.”

Some of the tunes rock downright ferociously, such as “Stride of the Mind” -- a mystical mishmash of lyrics set to a thumping garage rock tune -- and a couple of trademark Smithean epics here -- “Gandhi” and “Radio Baghdad” -- both long, (nine minute and 12 minute respectively) freewheeling , politically charged inspired diatribes that start off slow but build up into monster guitar frenzies.

(Political side trip: The war in Iraq is starting to inspire some musicians, Besides Smith’s raging indictment, there’s “That’s the News,” by Merle Haggard; a sad and beautiful tune called “Baghdad” by songwriter Ed Pettersen; The Beatie Boys’ “In a World Gone Mad”; Spearhead’s “Bomb Da World,“ not to mention the entire Rock Against Bush CD featuring punk bands like The Offspring, NoFX, Pennywise, etc. Nothing has the strong anthem potential of Country Joe & The Fish’s “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” or Pete Seeger’s “Knee Deep in the Big Muddy” has emerged.)

There are a couple of slow, pretty numbers here like “Peaceable Kingdom” and “Trespass.”

And surprisingly, one of the strongest, most memorable tracks here is the title song, an old spiritual, gone here with Smith’s daughter Jesse on piano. “I’m trampin’, trampin’, tryin’ to make Heaven my home,” Smith sings in a weary but unaffected voice.
While nobody honestly can claim that Patti Smith is mainstream, she’s no longer on the cutting edge of rock ’n’ roll as she was during her wild ride of the mid to late 70s.

But who cares? She’s created her own sound, her own style that nobody’s ever pulled off imitating. And she’s always been true to her visions. The uninitiated might not hear the call, but Smith fans should celebrate Trampin’.

Also Recommended:

by Mission of Burma.
When most of us hear the name “Roger Miller,” we think of the hillbilly hipster who used to live in Tesuque who was responsible for “King of the Road” and “Dang Me.” But there’s a whole generation of old punk rockers from Boston who know Roger Miller as the guitarist, singer and main songwriter of a short-lived but influential band from the early ‘80s, Mission of Burma.

Mission only did one studio album before breaking up about 20 years ago. But now they’re back, three out of four original members intact. (Miller, bassist Clint Conley and drummer Peter Prescott, both of whom also sing and write songs.)

O.K., MOB was one bandwagon I didn’t jump on back in the day. So I’m approaching Onoffon with fresh ears, unencumbered by whether or not the band sounds as good as they did during their golden era.

And I like what I hear.

With Miller’s dense feedback-drenched guitar roaring over meandering but sometimes catchy melodies this record reminds me somewhat of Husker Du (who arose in faraway Minnesota after MOB’s demise). And I hear just a little bit of another Massachusetts band that came along later, Dinosaur Jr.

But neither comparison does justice to the band.
There are so many joys on this record. The opening song “The Setup” sets the frantic tone of the album with Miller shouting over the glorious din. The rhythmic noise rock of “Fever Moon” sounds like punk and metal had a baby and they named it Bo Diddley. And “Max Ernst’s Dream” is an apparent followup to a very early MOB song.

Basically this makes me want to go back and discover Mission of Burma’s first album Vs. and other early work.

*Ruby Satellite System by Cellophane Typewriters. This is the new band of Santa Fe’s Zelda Salazar, who used to call his group The Occult Morphinas.

I don’t care what he calls it, this probably is Salazar’s best album yet. It’s full of big psychedelic guitars, crunching riffs colored by Kevin Zoernig’s keyboards.

The first song “Belladonna” is an exuberant tune even though he’s singing to a pill-freak girl who’s “barely alive” and “full of fear.“ It shows traces of Eastern music -- filtered through ’60s garage psychedelia, to be sure.

“The Prize” has even more brutal lyrics about a druggo friend who he envisions getting “brutalized, victimized and sodomized for your prize”

One of the most moving songs is “Evil Star,” a child’s bitter rebuke to a bad father.

Salazar doesn’t gig much, but he’s pretty prolific with the recordings. And he just keeps getting better.

(Last I checked, the Cellophane Typewriters’ web site wasn’t working. For more info try e-mailing or writing Iron Lady Music, 369 Montezuma St., Box 129, Santa Fe, N.M. 87501.)

*Hear songs from all the above albums on Terrell’s Sound World, 10 p.m. Sunday , KSFR, 90. 7 FM. And don’t forget The Santa Fe Opry, country music as God intended it to sound, Fridays, same time, same channel. Sean Conlon will be filling in for me tonight while I do my gig at the Aztec Cafe.

FOr details on that gig, scroll down until you see the poster of Gregg Turner and me.

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