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A Review of Gogol Bordello – ‘Trans-Continental Hustle’

Gogol BordelloTrans-Continental Hustle

American RecordingsGogol Bordello veritably burst on the scene in 2005 with Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike (incidentally, our pick for best punk album of the past decade). Although it was the band’s third album, it was the one that broke through the walls, exposing the punk scene to a refreshing sound that combined Eastern European sounds, traditional Gypsy music and punk sensibilities into a heavily brandished sound played by a band that was known for frenetic live shows and a staunch message about melting pot politics and their inclusion on the punk scene.

Subsequent years have been kind to Hutz and co.; he continues to accumulate an impressive acting career, and the band’s 2007 release Super Taranta! grabbed them critical acclaim, which brings them to a point over a decade into their career and to Trans-Continental Hustle, a Rick Rubin-produced album that is probably the band’s most musically dense and fleshed out album so far, a record that showcases a band thick in the exploration and evolution of its sound and entirely unwilling to sit still.

The album opens with “Pala Tute,” a pure Gyspy anthem that Hutz says is derived from traditional Gypsy music, but is also completely new. It sets the album up for an edgy, ethnic party vibe, and for the most part Trans-Continental Hustle goes above and beyond maintaining the energy from that point on.

Recent events have found vocalist Eugene Hutz, when not on tour throughout the world, taking up residence in Brazil, where he’s acquired bits of musical influence that cohesively mesh Gypsy music with Latin American rhythms, providing an even thicker coating on a canvas that was already thick with world music influence. “In the Meantime in Pernambuco” is the strongest example of this; Hutz drives an upbeat tune that leans heavily Latin while maintaining the gruff momentum of a Gypsy punk party.

Gogol Bordello

© Nicole Lucas

Gogol Bordello has never shied away from the immigrant experience in their music, and Trans-Continental Hustle continues to examine the world of the Gypsy and of the Gypsy Punk. “We Comin’ Rougher (Immigraniada)” is the newest Gypsy Punk anthem and a solid successor to tunes like “Immigrant Punk,” full of fully-wrought toughness and an unbreakable spirit, and “Break the Spell” is all about the alienation of gypsies, and spits out an invective that often holds true of the situation today when Hutz belts the chorus “You love our music, but you hate our guts/ I know you still want me to ride in back of the bus.” Even with the heavier message, or perhaps because of it, ethnic pride shines through, and the song becomes more of a party anthem than a fight song, a testament to spirit.

Elsewhere, “When Universes Collide” paints a more sober picture of the plight of the immigrants, trapped in violent slums by poverty. It’s not all about the party, and the situation is duly noted.

Only once does the album suffer from a palpable loss of energy. “Sun is on My Side” is a subdued tune, and while it offers clean production and a solid emotional effort, it plods and pales in comparison to the frantic attack we’ve come to expect of Gogol Bordello. Even so, the album as a whole shows a renewed vigor and lust for life from the Gypsy Punks, so I guess it’s acceptable if they need to take a minor breather in the midst of their mayhem.

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May 6, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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