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DEVENDRA BANHART | NINO ROJO

Crud Magazine | by James Berry

It’s satisfying. It makes you smile.

Whimsy – it’s a funny old quality. A valuable social feature perhaps, but a funny one nonetheless. A personality undoubtedly benefits from it – it’s like an accessory, tarting up what’s already there, even to the extent that one can be defined by how they accessorise – but to be swathed in it, or buried beneath it? For other things to be left to merely accessorise it? Do you see what I’m trying to say with this at all? The bloke down the pub with a quirky self-appointed nickname, growing a handlebar moustache, drinking cider from a tankard and talking in animated and unconnected syllables as if he’s just discovered electricity. He’s drowning himself and his sorrows in whimsy.

The thing is many who are similar in style to Devendra that dabble in the stuff – Badly Drawn Boy, Chris TT, Simple Kid – but they counter that with melancholy or a narrated reality or facial hair and headwear. Devendra doesn’t appear to know there’s shade to every light, which seems at odds with his clearly eloquent capabilities as a musician and writer. Don’t get us wrong, as he high cultures his way through intelligent blues, lonely acoustic show tune interpretations and 1930s variety vocal turns he has our full attention in a way that most one-man-and-his-guitar efforts could but dream of. But then he delivers almost every last line as if his vocal chords are a wobble board, he is Rolf Harris and he has an addiction that really needs addressing.

‘Little Yellow Spider’ is, like most tunes on the record, a sweet little 3 and a half minute ditty loyal to its title. He mulls over the arachnid already mentioned, a white monkey, a dancing crab and a happy squid with a childlike literate lyrical superiority. It’s satisfying. It makes you smile. So does ‘A Ribbon’, which sounds like Elliott Smith emptying the punch bowl and dancing with his reflection in the mirror. And ‘My Ships’, which sounds like Jack White joining him. The problem is that the novelty wears off after a while and your left craving a little darkness, a little seriousness even, just something to suit more than just one single narrow mood.

©2014 | YOUNG GOD RECORDS, LLC