Devendra Banhart – Mala
There are some artists who never disappoint. Devendra Banhart is one. His new album is unmistakably Banhartesque, utterly Devendronic. There’s the obligatory song in Spanish. The song that starts off one way and then does a complete somersault. Here it’s ‘Your Fine Petting Duck’, which proceeds slowly for 4 minutes only to transmogrify into a Dan Bejar Kaputt-like disco inferno. Oh, and, fittingly for the Kaputt-like sound, the language changes from English to German. Then there are the lyrics. Devendra is the master of irony. The prince of pince-sans-rire. The album begins with a short teaser track that exhorts us to “get on the dance floor”. So the next track is, inevitably, the most relaxed composition on the album. You’d have to have two broken legs to bop to it successfully. Best of all, there are the perfect, sublime moments. There’s perhaps nothing as transcendental as ‘Sea Horse’ from Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon, or anything quite as beautiful as ‘First Song For B’ on What Will We Be. Even so, there are some utterly mesmerising songs. The chord changes in the short instrumental ‘A Gain’. The whispered, almost hushed vocals on ‘Daniel’. The peace at heart of the penultimate track, ‘Won’t You Come Home’. Of course, the problem with any DevHart album, in all its quirkiness, is the temptation to fillet it. Don’t like a song, then show it the Ausgang. And there’s always the nagging sense that it’s a collection of individual songs rather than a coherent whole. Maybe it would take a Devendra Banhart concept album to give it a sense of complete togetherness. Obviously, it would have to be about the breakdown of a clown in the circus, or the private life of minor Latin American dictator, or something like that. Whatever the theme, surely with a little more oneness a truly great album would emerge. For the time being, though, His Devness has delivered another wonderful and sometimes crazy selection of songs. And that’s always a good thing.