I loved Ape in Pink Marble for being one of Devendra Banhart’s weirder albums. Tall order, I know. It sounds like the work of someone who’s listened to a lot of Donovan records, watched a lot of those prestige BBC productions where all the men wear straw hats, and dropped acid at a seaside resort in the off-season. That’s what the young kids call a mood. #bigmood
Devendra Banhart somehow manages to evoke visions of proper English gardens and South American exoticism in one take. It’s his mixed heritage, of course, and polyglot interests. This is exactly the kind of blissed-out openness that sounds like it wafted down from the Summer of Love. People back then weren’t afraid to be twee or sentimental, or childishly delighted by the world around them. That was the drugs talking, of course. Or maybe the air was just headier. Anyway, I miss the popularity of psychedelic music. It feels at-home to me.
Here is a song about being Jewish, or becoming so, or something. And romance with a Rabbi’s daughter. Weird spoken intro aside, it’s kind of a funky jam, as much as Devendra Banhart’s brand of psychedelic of Latin-spiced psychedelic folk music could be said to be funking it. Also, I think it’s a topic that needs to be more of an item in music. Given how many important entertainment figures are Jewish, there aren’t too many songs about it. It’s definitely its own genre in literature and in comedy, but it’s not exactly a big rock and roll aesthetic. More songs for Jews, please.
See, I’m still not done with my run of psychedelic folk music. Devendra Banhart is no substitute for the pleasures of Tyrannosaurus Rex, but then, nothing is, and the psychedelic pool is not easily refilled. I’ve been listening to Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon a lot lately, hence the flood of deep cuts, and it casts a nice spell, not least because it’s frequently not sung in English. A sustained sense of atmosphere is an underrated quality in a record, one that not enough artists shoot for, given that those who do often get called boring. But there’s a difference between consistency and repetition. Consistency means you can put on a record and be confident that your mood will be lifted and sustained for 72-or-however-many minutes.
Get outta here with your songs about seahorses, Devendra Banhart, go back to 1968 where you belong. Banhart very often sounds like he’s channeling the spirit of 60’s psychedelic folk music. Imagine peak Donovan, with more Latin flair. Which is not at all a drag. 60’s psychedelic folk is one movement that yearns for a full revival. We really could use more idealism and gentle fantasy in our pop culture right now. We need more songs about seahorses and wonderful things. We need pop stars who see the world as glittering and full of magic. We need some fucking whimsy over here, please.
Organ music is very underutilized in the world of rock’n’roll. Nothing brings a sense of portent to the proceedings like a good organ intro. And if it’s followed by a gospel choir – that’s a recipe for perfection. Why that’s not the formula for every hit pop song on the charts, I don’t know. (I do know: pop charts, and the songs on them, are stupid.) If you haven’t guessed, I freaking love it when someone takes takes unexpected elements from very unhip corners of the music world and uses them to their own weird ends. It’s diversification in action! So we of course have a Devendra Banhart song to listen to today, because he is a modern master of the weird and unexpected, and when he brings in that gospel choir there’s not a dry seat in the church.
I’ve been told that Saturday nights are like the highlight of some people’s week. It’s a thing they sit and count down to, apparently. That kind of life is a closed door to me. But if I was psyching up for the doing the Saturday night thing, I don’t think this is the mood I’d be aiming for. A sort of semi-mournful fugue. It’s more of a song for a long, bleak Thursday when all of the days stretch into infinity in both directions and you’re just gliding through with no concept of ‘week-ends’. It’s not depressing or sad, it’s soothing and keeps you in a gentle lull without too many ups or downs. Or maybe that’s just my headspace talking.