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Devendra Banhart - Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon

2008-02-13 08:12
Then he surfs between country rock whimsy (“Old Bean”), hippie Beatle ballad blues ("Bad Girl"), lysergic folk trips (“Sea Side”) and an odd blancmange of 50s doo-wop and Jewish exotica (“Shabop Shalom”). Not to mention a bizarre garage rock hallucination about meeting Satan in the Amazon (“Tonada Yanomaminista”), a stoner Latino-rock samba ("Carmensita"), an evangelical gospel choir church jam (“Saved”) and some faux 70s Blaxploitation soul funk ("Lover"). Phew! Does anything actually glue such an obsessive compulsive conflation of styles together?
Of course. The cheese, remember? Plus, Banhart's more than a bit of a fan boy. Portuguese crooned ballads "Rosa" and "Samba Vexillographica" (featuring The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson) both embrace the erotic ennui of a Caetano Veloso or Gilberto Gil - but without ever trying to clone the Tropicalia kings’ existential crises. And then there’s "Sea Horse". Kissed with some winsome backing harmonies by folk muse Vashti Bunyan this eight-minute marathon morphs from an acoustic folk fairytale into a psyched out rock jam that sounds uncannily like Jerry Garcia jamming Dave Brucbeck’s Take Five” with The Doors. It’s surreal. It’s superb.

- Miles Keylock

Forget the ‘new Weird Americana’ clichés. Devendra Banhart has. Hell, he’s so frustrated by the freak folk troubadour tag critics slapped on him that he’s hired an electric band and gone genre-surfing. "Cristobal" is an uncomfortable little pace setter. While it’s hand-woven chamber pop clearly telegraphs Banhart's love for Brazilian Tropicalia, it’s the soft porn-stringed spectre of the “Emmanuelle” theme song that ultimately seduces you with…its cheese.

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