On The Record: Horses-Patti Smith
by Cullen Landolt
Released: November 10th, 1975
Length: 43:10 (8 tracks)
Genres: Punk rock, art punk, garage rock
Personnel: Patti Smith – vocals, guitar
Jay Dee Daugherty – drums, consultant
Lenny Kaye – guitar, bass guitar, vocals
Ivan Král – bass guitar, guitar, vocals
Richard Sohl – keyboards
Every two weeks, I take twenty dollars out of my paycheck, trade it for an antiquated form of entertainment, and try to cause irreparable damage to my ‘cochleae’ (whatever that means).
Is it worth it? Let’s find out:
Generally speaking, I react very poorly to being told that something is “The Greatest ____ Of All Time.” Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. Maybe I have an attitude problem, or maybe I still resent my mother for making me sit through Mystic Pizza when I was twelve.
Consequently, I’ve been avoiding Horses for a while now. This is The Greatest Album Of All Time for many punks out there – so many punks, in fact, that reviewing the album poses a bit of a problem. At this point, there’s hardly anything new to say about Horses, but I think it’s finally time to give it a shot:
The record begins with a breathy delivery of the line “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine.” Now take note, dear reader, because this is exactly the kind of punk rock nonsense I can get behind. The group then takes off on a perfect five-minute ramp that concludes with all of the band members beating their instruments much in the same way that you would beat a broken toaster. It’s big, it’s loud, and I’m here for it.
“Redondo Beach” is cool. That’s all I got for ya.
But then from WAY outta left field, we get “Birdland,” which is easily my favorite track. Not only do Patti’s lyrics embark on a dark, winding narrative, the band reins in her chaos with some incredibly weird and spacey instrumentation. Following that, they let her off the leash with “Free Money,” a song that is three chords, three minutes, bada bing, and/or bada boom. Good stuff.
On side B the album starts to drag a bit. Despite the awesome guest appearances from Allen Lanier and a pre-Marquee Moon Tom Verlaine, the ballads “Kimberly” and “Break It Up” fell flat for me. Admittedly this might be due to the 45 years of rock music that stands between the album’s release and the dork writing this review, but on a collection of unhinged classics, I still assert that these two songs showed an odd amount of restraint.
But worry not, friends, because Patti returns to hard-hitting rock and roll with “Land.” This three-part screamer embodies the experience of Horses: You have no idea what she’s yelling about, nor do you care. You are going to ‘do the watusi.’ Then, just when you get tired of bouncing off the walls, Patti throws you a bone with “Elegie,” a wonderful little piano piece and an appropriate bookend to this electric album.
So with all that being said, is Horses the Greatest Album Of All Time? Not quite. It is, however, a hell of a lot of fun. So crank the volume, roll down the car door windows, and break as many traffic laws as humanly possible. It’s Patti flippin’ Smith.
Score: 1 – No. 2 – Meh 3 – Good 4 – Great 5 – Oh Baby