x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Gogol-a-go-go: Gogol Bordello's Trans-Continental Hustle

Gogol Bordello's latest album is a rollicking, riot of music influenced by various countries.

Greg Kinnear is cast to play JFK in an eigh-hour mini-series which has already drawn criticism.
Greg Kinnear is cast to play JFK in an eigh-hour mini-series which has already drawn criticism.

This year may prove the biggest yet for the gypsy-punk rabble rousers, Gogol Bordello. By December, they will have put in more than 200 shows across the world, and their latest album release, Trans-Continental Hustle, is their first on a major label - Columbia. It's a happy partnership which meant this album was produced by Columbia's chairman, Rick Rubin, the co-founder of Def Jam Records, the one-time Beastie Boy DJ who lists the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica on his producer's CV.

The year-long collaboration must have been something of a challenge for Rubin, however, because the band's development has been something of a slow burn. Formed in 1999, their biggest dose of exposure has been an appearance alongside Madonna at 2007's Live Earth Concert in London. There, the mustachioed Eugene Hütz sang La Isla Bonita alongside Madge, with fiddling from the group's violinist, Sergey Ryabtsev.

The performance has been followed with plenty of live appearances but with just one live recording churned out until now. Gogol Bordello's frantic Eastern European sound it what sets them apart, their myriad members tending to operate on something of a merry-go-round basis. This is hinted at by the latest album's name and track titles like Immigraniada. Hütz, born in Ukraine to a Russian father and a Romany mother,now lives in Brazil, where the new album was penned. It features musical contributions from countries as seemingly diverse as Scotland, Ecuador and Ethiopia.

The result? It sounds as if you're at a Greek wedding, with plates raining around you, while being serenaded by a chain-smoking, Eastern European trucker. Or Borat. So more of the same. But this isn't a bad thing - it's tuneful, stirring stuff with accordion chords that vary from languid to jaunty woven throughout, and there are hushed indications of the influence South America has had on Hütz though certain guitar sections and flirtations with Portuguese.

You're dropped into the party abruptly with the opening track - Pala Tute, the album's raucous first single. "Caravan is commin', all guitars are strummin'" serves, one presumes, as the gypsy equivalent to "get the party started". Subsequent highlights include the track Sun Is On My Side, the first minute of which gives you a clue as to what Bob Dylan might have sounded like if he'd hailed from the Ukraine and not Minnesota. When Universes Collide is a winner too, an emotional plea that illustrates the influence Sao Paolo has exerted on Hütz. "Two helicopters with machine guns over the slums proudly will glide, so when the universes collide, son don't get caught on the wrong side."

Those who have witnessed Gogol Bordello live will know of the band's unflagging energy and enthusiasm. The furious music-playing and cymbal-clashing (there go more plates) are apparent throughout and last right up until the final track, Cynic. It's a rollicking, riot of a listen; your ears will just need a rest afterwards.