June 08, 2003

Devendra Banhart "The Black Babies"

Devendra Banhart resides somewhere between utterly pretty, terribly ugly, and disturbingly brilliant. His debut album Oh Me Oh My... was a confounding debut; critics, at a loss, loved it because it was so damn weird. Much like Daniel Johnston, his childlike singing is magnified by the lo-fi recording, and the terrible recording quality is as instrumental to his music as the guitar he strums. The Black Babies (UK) is an EP that was released in England and it serves as a safe little jaunt into the world of Devendra Banhart. His music is really above reproach; if you're not a fan of the lo-fi weirdo 'experimental' singer-songwriter world, then you probably will think that this is crap, and you may or may not be right. Banhart is indeed an acquired taste, and The Black Babies (UK) should be considered a cheap sampling of the main meal.

I'll be upfront and say that I've yet to be convinced of Banhart's greatness, but The Black Babies (UK) hasn't really solidified my initial opinion of him, either. Banhart's got this childishness about him that I like, mainly due to the la-la-la's that are found in nearly every song. All of these songs have a certain charm, even if they're not technically good. Or annoying. You really have to be in the mood for this kind of stuff, else you'll be flinging it out the window and wondering why the heck you just blew an hour's wages on this guy.

The Black Babies (UK) hasn't exactly made me a fan. I'm won over, though, by the singalong "Lagoon" and "The Charles C. Leary." At the end of the day, I don't think Banhart's weird or odd, just not very good; underneath the lo-fidelity is a pretty traditional guy singing rather traditional folk songs. The Black Babies (UK) might actually serve Banhart better; it's short, sweet, to the point, and not overwhelming. Maybe, like Daniel Johnston, the magic comes from a whole catalog of records, as opposed to one single recording. It'll be interesting to hear, for sure, and after the last twenty-four minutes, I may actually be listening when Banhart speaks again.

--Joseph Kyle

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah seriously though, you should probably just fling it out the window(before listening to it, save yourself the pain). Better yet, recoup that lost hours wage! While claiming to love it, sell it to one of your hipster friends under the pretense that you've "Already ripped it to your iTunes".