Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Patti Smith: Dream of Life [Arista, 1988]
At first I took this for that most painful of embarrassments, a failed sellout. Was she unwilling to waste her hard-won politics on weirdos? Proving herself a fit mother by going AOR, only she hadn't heard any AOR in about five years? Sad, sad. But soon I was humming, then I was paying attention, and now I think of this as the latest Patti Smith record. If she doesn't sound as unhinged as last time, she probably isn't, but as matrons go she's still out there. Her prophetic rhetoric is biblical just like always, with a personal feel for the mother tongue I wish more metal Jeremiahs knew to envy. The music is a little old-fashioned and quite simple, controlled but not machined, and the guitars sing. Her Double Fantasy, suggests a Detroit Smith named RJ. Only we don't formalize our equality by doling out turns, adds a Detroit Smith named Fred Sonic. A-