tue 19/03/2019

CD: Patti Smith - Banga | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Patti Smith - Banga

CD: Patti Smith - Banga

Punk rock priestess returns to her roots with her strongest album in years

'Godmother of punk' Patti Smith shows she's still one of the world's most complex and relevant artists

At the age of 65, you would be forgiven for thinking that punk rock high priestess Patti Smith has every justification for winding down (the odd eccentric covers collection to keep the kids amused aside, of course). Indeed, her actions of the past couple of years - the highly-acclaimed memoir Just Kids, the self-curated musical retrospective Outside Society - bear all the hallmarks of an artist in reflective mode. Banga, Smith’s first new material since 2004’s Tramp, comes full circle in a sense: it was recorded at New York’s Electric Lady studios with many of the same personnel as were involved in the artist’s groundbreaking 1975 debut, Horses. Rather than produce some gimmicky rehash, however, this is an album as challenging and original as any that came before it.

Banga finds its inspiration in contemporary culture, in art and literature (the title is a reference to Mikhail Bulgakov’s satirical masterpiece The Master and Margarita) and in very real human tragedy. “Fuji-San”, described by the artist in the album’s liner notes as a prayer for the people of Japan written in the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake, stands out here - a fierce rocker of a track and one of the album’s more direct moments. Lead single “April Fool”, recently released as a free download, is the closest it comes to a straight-up pop song while woozy ballad “This Is the Girl” draws attention as a lyrical tribute to the late Amy Winehouse.

“Constantine’s Dream”, a ten-minute part-spoken word meditation inspired by the Piero dello Francesca painting, is more poetry than song such as defies the conventions of a three-hundred word album review. You can picture Smith wild-eyed and possessed, crying out the piece’s central themes - “all is art! all is future! oh lord, let me die on the back of adventure!” - in a primal frenzy, while the track’s references to Columbus tie in nicely with the album’s opening poem, “Amerigo”, about the discovery of the New World. That it leads into a sedate cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”, itself not without apocalyptic overtones, seems strangely appropriate.

Listen to the lovely "April Fool"


You can picture Smith wild-eyed and possessed, crying out the piece’s central themes in a primal frenzy

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters