Cripple Crow

The comparisons are obvious on Devendra Banhart’s fourth, Cripple Crow. Sure, he’s a little like Van Morrison — everyone who sings with their mouths a little too closed during the quiet parts is. But Cripple Crow isn’t Astral Weeks, so the comparisons stop there.

Barely less obvious than the author of “Brown Eyed Girl” are comparisons to the third and best Velvet Underground record. The closet-quiet production squishes Cripple Crow’s songs into muted, compressed, junior copycats of the Velvet’s eponymous album. Nothing is as remarkable as “Candy Says” and there’s even less that’s as propelling as “What Goes On.” Comparing Banhart to Lou Reed is overestimating the songwriter’s command of the craft. When Banhart tries to stomp out an upbeat song, it sounds like Julian Casablancas would if half of the Strokes decided to just say “fuck it” — empty. Refrains like “Well, if I lived in China, I’d have some Chinese children,” don’t boom with profundity; shit, they don’t boom at all. Maybe “Chinese Children” is a weak track in a sea of mediocre ones, but this rambling, aimless pap can crawl back into the neo-hippie hole Devendra Banhart climbed out of.

L.M. Smith writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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