The stitches from my gum surgery came out today, and while my teeth are still tender it feels good to have that procedure in my rear-view.
That was, of course, until the dentist said we gotta do the bottom half next. Yeesh. Thankfully it’s not scheduled until December. I can amuse myself with less painful activities in the meantime, like getting another tattoo.
Disc 918 is….Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike
Artist: Gogol Bordello
Year of Release: 2005
What’s up with the Cover? The ultimate weapon of revolutionaries and 12-year olds the world over: the slingshot. Also, a lot of yellow.
How I Came To Know It: Our old friends Sherylyn and Joel bought me a later album “Trans-Continental Hustle” (reviewed way back at Disc 482). I liked it and so I sought out some more stuff by the band, and “Gypsy Punks” is where I landed, for no particular reason at the time.
How It Stacks Up: Gogol Bordello has nine studio albums, but I’ve only got two. Of the two, “Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike” is the weaker partner, so #2.
Ratings: 3 stars
Raw energy is what Gogol Bordello is all about as a band, and “Gypsy Punk” captures the experience well, even if it is a bit too much of a good thing by the time you get to the end of it.
The album does a fine job of mixing punk and Eastern European folk music into a stew of sound. This is raw rock and roll, with accordion and violins played so hard that they must finish the show with stress fractures. Punctuating the frantic beat and thrashing guitars are bells, shrieks and screams. The whole thing is like an out of control house party where no one seems to know who the host is and that always ends with a police raid.
The music has a revolutionary fervor to it, even if you’re never sure what kind of revolution Gogol Bordello is after (one of the songs on the album is “Think Locally, Fuck Globally” so take that for what it’s worth). Music is their common tonic for helping them through difficult times.
This is particularly true on “Immigrant Funk.” This is the album’s entry into Gogol Bordello’s abiding interest in immigration, and the combination of excitement and frustration that is felt by new immigrants. “Immigrant Punk” is a punk classic, and band frontman Eugene Hutz starts the song off with a little vitriol, observing:
“Upon arrivin’ to the melting pot
I get penciled in as a goddamn white
Now that I am categorized
Officer gets me naturalized.”
With its almost reggae bass line, “Immigrant Punk” has traces of the Clash, but as with everything Gogol Bordello touches, it is with an eastern twist. There are also occasional splashes of Spanish musical forms, presumably because nothing exceeds like excess.
As I worked my way through my first listen my first thought was “oh, this stuff is all going to sound the same” but I was pleasantly surprised at how many different ways Gogol Bordello can employ so many subtle variations on similar rhythms and keep things interesting without compromising their sound.
“Dogs Were Barking” is a vision of the wildest wedding ever (Gogol Bordello can find inspiration for a song in every kind of party). In addition to the titular dogs, this weddings has monkeys, bears, girls cutting loose, cops lurking and kids ‘snarking’ There’s nothing worse than a snarky kid at a wedding.
One of the most melodic songs is “Undestructable” which shows the band is capable of reining it in just a bit and delivering something almost (but not quite) worthy of being a radio single. It is a beautiful track, marred by the unfathomable decision to repeatedly say ‘undestructable’ instead of indestructible. It isn’t just the accents either; the liner notes make it clear the spelling is deliberate.
Sometimes the songs tend to get a bit repetitive and need to end sooner. This is a general malaise of the album, which at 15 songs and 63 minutes is just too long. Taken all at once it wears you out, and you’re done with it 15 minutes before it is done with you. It is the musical equivalent of the party that goes on a little too long, where you stay for an extra hour after you ceased having fun, wishing you’d shared that final cab with your buddies after all.
Overall this is a pretty fun record, from a band who create a unique blend of west and east; of rock and tradition, and then make the resulting goulash sound great. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but I suspect Gogol Bordello would have it no other way.
Best tracks: Not a Crime, Immigrant Punk, Avenue B, Dogs Were Barking, Start Wearing Purple, Undestructable