Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Album Review: Gogol Bordello's "Super-Taranta!"

Admittedly, I have no prior "history" with Gogol Bordello, and I had not afforded them even a passing thought until Bob Boilen & company raved about their latest album, "Super Taranta!" on NPR's "All Songs Considered" summer preview back in June.

The preview included the opening track "Ultimate", which is a chaotic & wonderful masterpiece. The song is refreshing due to it's directness, simplicity and infectious energy. It builds to a frenzied crescendo with a provocative chorus that acts as a call to arms against the forces of legislated nostalgia;

"There were never any good old days, They are today, they are tomorrow, It's a stupid thing we say, Cursing tomorrow with sorrow."
As a first time listener I was immediately drawn into the rest of the album as if it were a fabulous train wreck that I could not keep away from. It was a raw and visceral listening experience. My reaction afterwards (one I have heard repeated elsewhere) was to think that this is indeed what The Pogues could have become had Shane MacGowan remained sober periodically, and had the energy level of the band been turned up a few notches.

What is immediately endearing upon first listen is the off beat phrasing and the strong unapologetic Eastern European accent from singer Eugene Hutz, a former refugee from the
Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine. He brings a unique perspective and voice to this already diverse gypsy-punk NYC collective.

Quirky songs with equally eccentric titles abound, including "Supertheory of Supereverything" where Hutz describes the Bible as being "unwitty", and sings about his mistrust of disciples, "even if they're made of marble".

Other stand out tracks include "My Strange Uncles From Abroad", a song of loss for a first generation immigrant, and "Tribal Connection", which reminds me of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" thrown into a blender and reconfigured to reflect a weary ambivalence towards early 21st century tribalism and narrow mindedness. Also of note is the slowly building "Alcohol", a straight ahead gin soaked bar room lament that is also a heck of a lot of fun.

Musically, the album functions as the soundtrack to some adrenalin fueled post-modern gypsy circus. The frenetic violin playing, choppy off kilter acoustic strumming and pounding drums are occasionally balanced out by the organic warmth of Yuri Lemeshev's accordion. This is the perfect back up band for Hutz's globe trotting, stream of consciousness meanderings.

This is not an album to walk alone to and enjoy in solitude on your IPod. It demands to be shared and embraced communally with other folks in mood for rapturous celebration. It is a bold and uplifting experience that avoids sounding trite. It functions as a life affirming coup d'├ętat that cuts straight through the bland sentimentality present in much of popular music .
I would recommend getting on board the Gogol Bordello express immediately and embracing the manic and joyful ride that this album provides.

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