The Past And Present Of Patti Smith’s “Banga”

It is a tantalizing tell, to use the terminology of poker players who seek that small tic that will reveal what a player thinks of his own hand, that the first note of Patti Smith’s unbelievably great new album Banga is a single piano note that happens to be the same note that begins Patti Smith-protege PJ Harvey’s “We Float.”  Yeah, she’s been listening, listening to her acolytes, listening, by our reckoning to bands like Blood Meridian, artists like Bowie, and even old folkies like the Youngbloods (whose “Darkness Darkness” returns here in “Nine.”)

Banga is a remarkable album because it connects in a straight line to Horses, released, what, 37 years ago, and to virtually every bit of great music waiting to be played in the great Jungian juke box.  It’s  not just hearing Tom Verlaine play lead on “April Fool” that produces the rapture — yeah, rapture — this classic album inspires.  Maybe it’s the thought that unlike Dylan, who when he produced Love and Theft had lost the voice that could really do the songs justice, Smith still can sing, those years spent inactive paying off now, as like a pitcher with a fresh arm stemming from a late start, she can come in and finish the game without the seeming accumulation of age.

Here we have Patti Smith, not just a survivor but someone who proves she’s learned a lot since those thrilling, annoying, early days when she played the obnoxious tyro spouting pretentious gibberish while making gorgeous rock’n’roll music.  Banga is a revelation, an extension of “Birdland,” but so much more: current, sublime.  “Maria” is something that will make even an artist like PJ Harvey stand up and cheer for the master, who this time around repays the favor by taking her sound back again.  When the final words are written, Banga will be connected to Horses in that long sentence describing Patti Smith’s greatness.

One Response to “The Past And Present Of Patti Smith’s “Banga””

  1. […] For the first time since we began our Top 10 List, Tulip Frenzy has included Patti Smith, whose Banga is a delightful return to form. […]

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