Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Gogol Bordello: Trans-Continental Hustle

Released 27 April 2010 Trans-Continental Hustle is the fifth studio album from Gogol Bordello. It marks the band's first major label release (Columbia Records) since they formed in 1999. The band are famed for their trademark 'Gypsy Punk' style and feature a tremendously wide range of cultural influences. The bands sound is rooted in eastern european folk music but the band features musicians from all over the world (Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Scotland and the USA in the current lineup). This has resulted in a very distinctive feel to the music produced and the presentation of live shows.

I became aware of Gogol Bordello through the 'Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike' album (or 'Gypsy Punks' to those who can only read large letters), a tremendously exciting and somewhat anarchic album clearly designed to make you dance. The fact that some of the lyrics flirt with various languages is no obstacle, it simply served to draw the attention of the english speaking audience members straight to the music which, aside from drawing influence from the wide-ranging ethnic backgrounds of the band, cover so many different styles that I have been medically forbidden from attempting to name them all for fear of sustaining a finger injury.

The 2007 follow up, 'Super Taranta!' was more of the same but unfortunately the novelty had begun to wear a little thin for many listeners. There was a real feeling of something missing with the album. That was until I caught a live show. I was lucky enough to catch the band in a relatively small venue while they toured Super Taranta and as they worked their way through the songs I had dismissed so readily from the album it all began to make sense. As great as this album was for parties, without the band leaping around an overcrowded stage and throwing themselves recklessly into the audience (and headbutting me in the face in the process......Eugene....) it is just a little......incomplete.

I was unsure what to expect when I heard the announcement of the new album but hearing Rick Rubin and Columbia had got their grubby mits all over it I simply had to hear what mainstream success had done for the band. And the answer.....not an awful lot. It's clearly the same Gogol but there is a definite reduction in the anarchy previous albums contained. Don't get me wrong, Hutz still strums that guitar like a lunatic and the fiddles still zip through the songs like flies but it just seems, overall, toned down.

In some respects this serves to remove the sensation of listening to a gig from the next room and the songs are 'good', but 'good' isn't really enough when a band has previously produced stunning albums like 'Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike'. Highlights on this record include the very chilled out 'Sun Is On My Side' which will be a perfect song to add to your summer playlist and 'Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)' which is simply insanely catchy and comes close to the punk frenzy of previous recordings.

My personal recommendation would be to either get hold of older material which is arguably far superior, or check out their recent live DVD which will contextualise the band's style. Or even better, since they tour almost endlessly catch them at a gig......just make sure it's a small one, or they might end up on stage with Madonna again.....and we shall pretend THAT never happened.

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