DEVENDRA BANHART | NINO ROJO
Crud Magazine | by James Berry
Itâ€™s satisfying. It makes you smile.Whimsy â€“ itâ€™s a funny old quality. A valuable social feature perhaps, but a funny one nonetheless. A personality undoubtedly benefits from it â€“ itâ€™s like an accessory, tarting up whatâ€™s already there, even to the extent that one can be defined by how they accessorise â€“ but to be swathed in it, or buried beneath it? For other things to be left to merely accessorise it? Do you see what Iâ€™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 heâ€™s just discovered electricity. Heâ€™s drowning himself and his sorrows in whimsy.
The thing is many who are similar in style to Devendra that dabble in the stuff â€“ Badly Drawn Boy, Chris TT, Simple Kid â€“ but they counter that with melancholy or a narrated reality or facial hair and headwear. Devendra doesnâ€™t appear to know thereâ€™s shade to every light, which seems at odds with his clearly eloquent capabilities as a musician and writer. Donâ€™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.
â€˜Little Yellow Spiderâ€™ 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. Itâ€™s satisfying. It makes you smile. So does â€˜A Ribbonâ€™, which sounds like Elliott Smith emptying the punch bowl and dancing with his reflection in the mirror. And â€˜My Shipsâ€™, 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.