Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Gogol Bordello

Trans-Continental Hustle

American Recordings/Sony

Gogol Bordello’s 2005 album Gypsy Punks was fresh, new and exciting. I couldn’t get enough. Then in 2007, Super Taranta! took the band’s sound even further. Injecting their underdog, nomadic, Eastern European gypsy-punk anthems with the kind of massive scope destined for stadium and festival-dominating appearances around the world. But for some reason, their major label debut Trans-Continental Hustle didn’t leap out the same way.

It can’t be a simple case of major label, Rick Rubin production kills the raw energy. That’s too clichéd to even contemplate. But something’s different. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s the problem. Every time I listen to Trans Continental Hustle, I get “Wanderlust,” from Super Taranta!, stuck in my head. Which says a lot.

Still, I’ve been listening to the album all week and it’s starting to infiltrate my sub-conscious. “We Comin’ Rougher (Immigraniada)” is a dirty punk-rock song bursting with gypsy violin and Kafka and Don Quixote references. “In corridors full of tear gas our destines jammed every day. Like deleted scenes from Kafka, flushed down the bureaucratic drain,” sings Eugene Hütz .

“Last One Goes the Hope” is the first track that really got under my skin. “When Universes Collide” is an epic five minute ride from light to dark, with Hütz raging like a cursed gypsy God on a mountain top in a lightning storm towards the end. And “My Companjera” is infectious thanks to Russian violinist Sergey Ryabtsev and Russian accordion player Yuri Lemeshev.

“Break the Spell” explores Gogol Bordello’s newfound mainstream appeal: “You love our music but you hate our guts. I know you still want me to ride in back of the bus,” “Like a pro I pack your dance floor but you want me to come in and exit through back door.” At the end, Hütz ’s “Break the spell” sustain sounds like Johnny Rotten at the end of Sex Pistols’ “Problems.”

I guess the trans-continental hustle is Hütz and his merry band of music makers’ rise from gypsy-punk underdogs to worldwide festival owners, American Recordings, Sony, Rick Rubin and Red Light Management. From Hütz famously arriving in America (from the Ukraine) with $400, a trashed guitar and some black-market vinyl, to swanning around Brazil – where he now lives with his Romanian samba dancer girlfriend – with Madonna’s phone number in his pocket.

Apparently, the Rick Rubin hookup came when Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello texted Rubin, saying that Gogol Bordello is the best band in the world. Then Rubin watched them play the Hollywood Palladium, met Hütz backstage and the rest is history. At first, Trans-Continental Hustle comes across a bit flat. More of the same. But the more you listen, the more the songs start to seep in.

“May the sound of our contaminated beat sweep all the Nazi purists off their feet…"
Gogol Bordello on MySpace

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