Her little group has always been and always will be until the end
Literally from the get-go, Patti Smith has played other people’s music,
opening 1975’s Horses
with an explosive deconstruction of Them’s “Gloria,” and perfectly capping 2004’s Trampin’
with the title spiritual. To mild surprise, Twelve
—Smith’s new covers collection—features nearly all boomer standards, most performed with a disarming straightness. Only Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” finds Smith taking any real liberties. There, Lenny Kaye, playwright Sam Shepard (on banjo), and some vintage Village bohos lay a dirge while Smith uses Kurt Cobain’s text as a verbal springboard. More Pete Seeger than Cat Power, her interpretations sometimes feel too internalized to startle, especially the Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” and Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” both potentially explosive songs that never quite detonate. Where urgency isn’t required, like on Neil Young’s “Helpless” and Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Smith is magical. Twelve is to garage rock what rec-room spreads are to dingy basement dens: not as transcendent, but still good fun.