Devendra Banhart

Sometimes a perfectly good album is ruined by a casual remark. For instance, the finger-snapping high time once offered by Swedish pop band the Concretes was lost to me forever after someone pointed out that the group’s vocalist sounded like SpongeBob SquarePants. So, Devendra Banhart fans, stop reading here if you want the spell to remain unbroken. Fair warning dispensed, his voice and singing are uncannily like Mark McKinney’s Kids in the Hall white bluesman character — when Banhart gets going, you worry he’ll injure his wrist doing the hambone.

Banhart doesn’t play blues, though. Oh Me Oh My is instead an eccentric lo-fi guitar-and-vocal disc in the Smog mold. Indeed, Banhart sounds authentically damaged, as though someone has brained him with Skip Spence’s Oar. He’s just not a very good songwriter. Parts of the album manage to sound artfully disastrous rather than accidentally so, and the tape hiss — so prominent it might as well have been given its own channel in the mix — is oddly soothing. But Banhart’s keenest musical instinct is for self-destruction. Washed up on the shore of an honest-to-goodness guitar melody, he plants his flag and wails painfully. His stylistic change-ups are limited to sudden bursts of paranormal falsetto. The only other sound on the album is Banhart’s occasional hand-clapping, something he does with the steadiness of Matthew Perry at a traffic stop. Oh Me Oh My has the demented patina of a cult-making album, but not the substance or charm of one.

Categories: Music