(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

CD review - Gogol Bordello, Trans-Continental Hustle (2010)

At some level, we all want our idols to be Peter Pan. Never grow up. There's a magic first meeting and that's what we want from them. Every time. And some artists will give it to us, locked into the same rut...er, groove... until they're playing county fairs somewhere. And, perverse as we are, we look at them with sadness because they grew old and couldn't deliver on their promise.

Eugene Hütz and Gogol Bordello never pretended allegiance to anything other than their cultural pride and joy in playing. Trans-Continental Hustle delivers on both those points, but it's a more mature sound than the days of Gypsy Punks. Some things never change: Hütz's thick accent and the blend of folk instruments cutting loose are here like old friends. There's still plenty of Gypsy, but the sound is less bombastic and chaotic. Gogol Bordello adds depth to their wacky stage personas, giving a richer sense of who they are and what they care about, while keeping a good drive to the music.

Rick Rubin's production is strong factor in this new incarnation of Gogol Bordello's sound. Rubin has a reputation for drawing an artistic vision out of the musicians he produces. So, it comes as little surprise that Eugene Hütz and company have distilled their Gypsy wildness to get a purer sound, while also giving them the space to lay out the moody Gypsy jazz of Sun Is On My Side, with its world weary French cafe sound. It's bluesy, folky, and a touch hopeful.

Old fans will appreciate Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher), where the chorus evokes the old Gypsy Punks sound. The verses are milder, but still show some of the old confrontational spirit. The cleaner production sands off some rough edges, but makes it easier to hear the nice collection of parts pulling the song together.

Throughout Trans-Continental Hustle, the old punk sound has drifted more towards a hard rock sound. Break The Spell pairs a ska energy to the gypsy rock sound. The song builds, throwing in a brief rock guitar lead that pairs well with the AC-DC chant of the title line. The Gypsy pride is overt:
You love our music but you hate our guts
I know that you still want me to ride in back of the bus.
I'm happy that Gogol Bordello is growing up without losing sight of what works for them. Trans-Continental Hustle is a newer sound, but it's a hopeful step forward for a band that still knows their identity:
And may the sound of our contaminated beat
Sweep all the Nazi purists off their feet
(Trans-Contintental Hustle)
Raise a vodka toast to growth and maturity...Bud'mo!

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