If it were possible to review Patti Smith’s Banga in a vaccuum, perhaps we’d be having a nice little discussion about poetry and aging hippies. But with Patti Smith comes all the weight and power of words like “LEGEND”, “ICON” and “IDOL.” She is the godmother of punk, after all – and noted inspiration to Michael Stipe, Madonna, Sonic Youth, the Smiths, and other assorted musical giants. She is a singer, a poet, and patron Goddess of the female rock star.
With that kind of epic reputation, the only thing Patti could really do wrong is…oh, try too hard capture the spirit of today’s youth (ahem, Madonna, ahem). But barring that, at age 65, Patti Smith pretty much gets a free pass to put out any damn kind of album she wants to. Luckily, most of Banga is quite good, and even the most indulgent bits are worth a listen.
Okay, so maybe the ten-minute poem/ramble “Constantine’s Dream” lacks a payoff. It feels a little like reading one of the songs in a Tolkien book – one wonders if there is essential information hiding in it, someplace, or if it’s cool to just skip this part. But on the other side is a lovely cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” to reward you for your listening efforts. The title track is loads of fun, and “Mosaic” is a perfect song to get your best hippie-sway on to. In fact, if you’ve got a long skirt or a pair of world music pants in your closet, bust ‘em out and lose yourself to the Banga vibe – Patti, the Goddess, is bringing it in spades.