The prospect of a new studio album from the legendary Patti Smith is always an exciting one and new offering Banga is certainly no disappointment. The album is gorgeous, intense and above all possesses an extraordinary pervading spirituality that elevates it to a higher emotional and intellectual plain.
There is a pronounced mysticism about these twelve songs. Several, such as the epic ‘Fuji-san’ and the solemn, hymn-like ‘Seneca’, feature imagery of the animal kingdom and natural world and at times recall old-fashioned ballads or poetic odes. On such tracks Smith’s powerful voice and memorable, richly imaginative lyrics seem imbued with a breath taking mythical grandeur. One cannot help but be captivated. Banga
is an album that forces you to sit up and take notice.
In Smith’s vision, spirituality is often linked to the transcendent power of art. These ideas ring through songs relating to cinema, such as ‘Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter)’, which, according to the album’s detailed liner notes by Smith herself, is an allusion to and interpretation of the work of the famous Russian film director. They reach a climax, however, in the stunning ‘Constantine’s Dream’ about the painter Pierro della Francesca, in which Smith examines the relationship between art, knowledge, spirituality and humanity, at one point virtually yelling out what appears to be her mantra, “All is art!” This song is the album’s largest in scope and most unique.
Yet Smith is equally impressive on the simpler songs. Title track Banga
is a delicious bluesy romp, while the beautiful and mournful soul-infused ballad ‘This Is The Girl’ proves to be another highlight with its melancholy lyrics and lullaby-like conclusion.
Whether you’re a long-time Patti Smith fan or someone from a new generation discovering her music for the first time, Banga
is a deeply rewarding album. In order to get the maximum enjoyment and understanding out of the album, I recommend reading the liner notes which provide invaluable insight into the more dense and abstract tracks. Then sit back and savour the brilliance.