On this record, Smith took her inspiration from her travels with husband/guitarist Lenny Kaye. The result is a set of narrative songs that incorporate many World sounds and rhythms into Smith's usual punk-poet aesthetic.
That combination yields results like "Fuji-San", with it's passionate vocal delivery, and the elaborate and textured eastward journey of "Mosaic".
The slow, arty "This Is The Girl" has a New York-era Lou Reed vibe to it, which doesn't make it a standout. That Reed sound returns with stronger results on the title track. Johnny Depp contributes guitars and drums to a song that is part "Black Angel's Death Song", part World rhythm.
The most surprising track is "April Fool". With Tom Verlaine on guitar (he also appears on "Nine") it is a straightforward song that verges on pop. It's something one would expect from Chrissy Hynde rather than Patti Smith.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Patti Smith record without a helping of spoken word performance. Typically, the spoken word is more seductive when it comes as part of a more musical piece, and that hasn't changed. Therefore, a track like "Amerigo", which alternates spoken word verses with a captivating melody, is far more accessible than a wholly spoken "Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter)".
Slower numbers, like the methodical piano-based "Maria" and the glacial strings of "Seneca" are easily forgotten.
The inclusion of a cover of Neil Young's "After The Gold Rush" is a welcome palate cleanser.
Banga is definitely an uneven record. It has moments that will stick with rock fans, but it also has moments (like the 10-minute "Constantine's Dream") that make it seem like Smith is daring people to like it. As a whole it will likely hold more appeal to those rock critics and historians than it will to the actual music fan.
Best tracks: "Amerigo", "Banga"
Track listing for Banga:
- April Fool
- This Is The Girl
- Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter)
- Constantine's Dream
- After The Gold Rush