Patti Smith has legions of devoted fans. I am one. Banga has been out a while and a review has not yet graced Sloucher so I must take on the responsibility of an unbiased critique before I get to see her in Manchester soon.When Jim Morrison implores his audience to “WAKE UP” he channels that shamanic spirit that flows through the universe seeking to shake us from our stupor. Patti Smith belongs to the same Spirit. Tainted forever by her hit single ‘Because the Night’, which is a glorious hymn, many overlook her magnificent canon of music and writing.
She is a living legend, full of humility and grace, yet she maintains the true rebel spirit of the 1960’s, but Patti Smith is not entrenched in the past.
A few moments into ‘Amerigo’, the first track on Banga, Patti utters in hushed tones “Hey, Wake Up”. No need for Morrison’s heartfelt cry here. Her delivery is equally impassioned and effective. The song is a masterpiece. ‘April Fool’ follows. ‘This is the Girl’ is a slower song, dedicated to Amy Winehouse. ‘Fuji-San’ is a lovely prayer for Japan after an earthquake. Thought provoking and lovely.
But if you thought for a moment Patti Smith was mellowing with age, the title track ‘Banga’ removes any doubt. “The night is a mongrel / believe or explode” she howls.
From here the record changes gear. ‘Mosaic’ leads into ‘Tarkovsky’, a truly epic composition that is brooding and menacing. Smith is on top form lyrically and the band are just terrific. Surely the album has peaked here? No Way. ‘Nine’ is followed by ‘Seneca’ but who is prepared for what follows? ‘Constantine’s Dream’ is as good as you will hear. An astounding piece of story telling that evolves into an apocalyptic climax. In a stroke of genius the album concludes by leaving the intensity of ‘Dream’ and gives a vision of a better tomorrow -yep Patti sings Neil Young’s ‘After the Goldrush’ complete with children singing the chorus. Cheesy ? not in the slightest.
Lyrically and musically this is a magnificent and classy work as Patti, surrounded by a band of impeccable musicians, takes the listener on a journey through her dreams. Trust me when I tell you that this is a mature and artistic vision created with love and passion. Pass by at your peril because albums like this do not appear often. The special edition is a lovely thing with photos , essays and lyrics plus a bonus track, ‘Just Kids’.
There. I told you I would be unbiased.
Patti Smith Website.