Devendra Banhart, Oh me Oh my......
The Wire | by Jim Haynes
His raw songcraft is terrifyingly effective at communicating the breadth of human emotionThe biography accompanying Devendra Banharts debut album reveals a precocious and idiosyncratic singer/songwriter with a lot of travelling behind him. Though only 21,Banhart has crossed California desert canyons to Venezuela, where his father was imprisoned,attended a San Francisco art school,toured the frnch countryside,survived New York squats.If they fall short of crowning him as the quintessential art school flake,these details render a geophysical parallel to the emotional,linguistic and psychological fragmentation of Banharts music.Using voice,guitar,and four track,his raw songcraft is terrifyingly effective at communicating the breadth of human emotion.
The set of relatively brief songs making up (to give its full title) Oh me Oh my the way the day goes by the sun is setting dogs are dreaming love songs of the christmas spirit, range over orgasmic glee,trembling sexuality,and springtime unrequited love,to delirious tirades of impotent hate and existential confusion.Central to the musics conviction,his skewed vibrato and unnerving warble recall a vocal lineage taking in pre-T Rex Marc Bolan,Syd Barrett and Karen Dalton (with his own name tacked on the end).
Lyrically,his stream of consciousness logic hinges on conditional clauses that become the springboard for his surreal tales: "if the sky were a stone,made of lips,made of bone","if i were more like fancy girls" and "if i sweat salt and the earth sweats heat,oh michigan state how i want to live in you". Replete with dead horses,obsolete steamships,teeth and sea birds,his willfully obtuse images are stitched together regardless of syntax or metaphoric sense.Yet he has the capacity for emoting meaning raher than spelling it out. Belying his uncouth and unwashed countenance,Devendra Banharts debut is beautiful,damaged,naked and utterly compelling.