On her first album of new material in seven years, singer/songwriter, Patti Smith sings of themes ranging from the discovery of America, the Japanese tsunami disaster of 2011 and the death of Amy Winehouse.
Throw in some reflections of St. Francis of Assisi and Roman emperor Constantine, and you’ve got Banga, Smith’s image-driven melodically strong recording.
Although Smith’s image is that of a punk rock priestess, that’s a ‘70s typecast. In a way, she carries on the spark from The Doors and Jim Morrison’s work on songs like Celebration of the Lizard.
Smith’s poetry-rock is accessible due to her friendly, natural vocal and gift for gathering good songs to fit her words.
Banga has some of the original New York City “New Wave” gang on board (Lenny Kaye, Tom Verlaine, Jay Dee Daughtry) who enhance Smith’s original art punk/poet style.
As there is nothing to prove commercially, the music equalizes expectations.
Her biggest hit (Because the Night) set a precedent for dramatic rock with a raw edge. That quality abides on Banga, textured with a visionary texture in tracks like Amerigo (15th century discovery pop song), psychedelic folk (Mosaic), and epic trip rock (Fuji San).
She gives her musing on Winehouse, the sweet ‘50s ballad This is the Girl, an atmospheric treatment. It’s a poignant tribute.
Constantine’s Dream is classic Smith, a track that weaves her seemingly disparate poetic themes of disaster, discovery, saints, sinners, death and nature into an atmospheric performance. Seneca and After the Gold Rush (Neil Young cover) complete the song circle with a stately beauty.
Banga is a coherent album haunted and lifted up by the strong dreams of Smith and her comrades.
–– Dean Gordon-Smith is guitarist with Vernon-based rock band Redfish who writes a weekly music review column for The Morning Star.