3/5 Patti Smith has always had the ability to produce a nervous panic in this listener. It’s similar to finding yourself at a dinner party surrounded by avid readers locked into a discussion of an obscure Peruvian author while you nod dumbly and resist the urge to stick a fork into your thigh. The title of her new album, Banga, comes from a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. ‘April Fool’ is inspired by Gogol, while ‘Constantine’s Dream’ is an imagining of a Piero della Francesca fresco. It’s a far cry from the title of the b-side of her 1974 debut single (Google it).
Yet, despite lofty references, Smith’s latest is still hugely nourishing, with or without the PhD. ‘Mosaik’ and ‘Fuji-san’ recall post-Maharishi Beatles songs such as ‘Dear Prudence’ in their raga-like splendour, while the title tune brings to mind the sweeping desert rock of Tinariwen. In contrast, the gentle elegance of piano-led tracks like ‘Maria’ expose an intimate side rarely heard from the punk matriarch.