Album: Devendra Banhart
Cripple Crow, XL
Friday 16 September 2005
Which is entirely appropriate, as Cripple Crow is steeped in the values and attitudes of that brief, Edenic moment when hippiedom's interest in Oriental mysticism fused with folk's earthy traditionalism to produce a sort of neo-medievalist folk-pop revolution, before prog-rock smothered everything in pointless solos and countless decibels. It's like the best Tyrannosaurus Rex album since Unicorn, the best Donovan album since Gift From a Flower to a Garden, and the best ISB album since Wee Tam & The Big Huge - and as with the latter two at least, it's a vast anthology of oddball whimsy, utopian pacifism, rustic charm and speak-like-a-child naivete, related through a shifting palette of fluttering guitars, droning sitars and simpering strings and breathy flutes like those with which Ray Warleigh and Harold McNair caressed the work of Donovan, John Martyn and Nick Drake.
Quite what it means for American musicians to be effectively re-imagining themselves as British hippy throwbacks remains to be seen, but it must be acknowledged that Banhart's rejection of the callow complaints and knee-jerk nihilism which now customarily dominate most American "alternative" rock makes for a welcome and refreshing change, as do the resolutely lo-fi, largely acoustic settings. "I realise it ain't wise to idealise/ Or put your life in the hands of any struggle," he reflects in the opening "Now That I Know", eschewing activism for inner development of a more mystical form. It's debatable whether Banhart's innocent utopianism is an adequate response to an increasingly complex world: whether an argument such as "It's simple - we don't want to kill" isn't in fact a touch too simple.
Musically, Banhart has broadened his approach on Cripple Crow, augmenting his guitar and piano parts with hand percussion, wisps of dobro, viola, cello and sitar, and the occasional thread of distorted electric guitar. For all that, the solo guitar instrumental "Sawkill River" is one of the highlights here, bested only by "I Feel Just like a Child", his evocation of the wonder of childhood and the miracle of growth, "from being my daddy's sperm/ to being packed in an urn".
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 3 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' goes viral 35 years later
Martin Scorsese 'in shock and sorrow' after death on set of new film Silence
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures