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Album Review
Outside Society

Outside Society
by Patti Smith


Review Date
11th November 2011
Reviewed by
Benjii Jackson

In most cases, I prefer the term ‘retrospective’ over ‘best of’. The later conjures up ideas of mere singles that generated radio play and the utterance of Patti Smith doesn't give off the connotation of “radio friendliness”, but more someone steeped in punk rock history. And in many instance of historical referencing, that term “retrospect” adds a certain dynamic to a work, one befitting of this release.

Smith's contribution to the musical landscape is perhaps a little overlooked by the mainstream, something Outside Society seeks to remedy by demonstrating her influence on other musicians. Artists like Nick Cave and PJ Harvey certainly owe a debt of gratitude to what Smith brings to the table; one could cast comparisons between Smith tracks “1959” and “Dancing” and Polly Jean’s work. Similarly Cave’s stream-of-conscious vocal delivery can be likened to Smith’s groundbreaking drawl on “Rock n Roll Nigger”.

Of course part of the charm of looking back at Smith's work is also admiring the influences that she's drawn upon, only to subvert. The gospel-come-rock anthem “Gloria” is very much in the vein of The Stooges and during her time working with John Cale, while her reinterpretation of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” veers from the poetic to the somewhat macabre – though many have already made their thoughts known of that particular single.

Musically it might seem overwhelming charting Smith's career. Thankfully, the inlay notes give an insight to each song from her perspective, though neatly darting past the “self-indulgent” moments of Radio Ethiopia. This is more the reason to perhaps purchase the CD – for that (albeit brief) insight from the artist herself. It's definitely a strong compilation that sprawls her acclaimed to her recent, perhaps introverted work. Not overly comprehensive, but something to get you acquainted with Ms. Smith.


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