Review: Gogol Bordello – Pura Vida Conspiracy
Published on July 26th, 2013 | Edwin Gilson
Eugene Hütz, front man of Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello, has always been the type to grab life by the haunches. As a youth he travelled around Eastern Europe for seven years before eventually settling in New York, an experience reflected on his band’s sixth album Pura Vida Conspiracy in his assertion that “Borders are the scars on the face of the planet”.
This may as well be Hutz’s mantra, both personally and musically. He is thoroughly against any kind of segregation and challenges the idea that artists should stick to one genre, hence the hybrid of folk, punk and world music his band creates.
One thing you can be sure of from any new Gogol release, though, is a fair amount of bratty rock-out moments; indeed, crashing drums and jagged violins enter the fray less than ten seconds into opening track “We Rise Again”.
The string section drives most of the tracks on the album and helps inject a dramatic tone here, complimenting Hutz’s rebellious words “With a fist full of heart and a radical future, we rise again!”
Gogol’s sudden pace changes are endearing and imply a complete lack of regard for the conventions of songwriting; no more so than on early highlight “Malandrino”, a charming Spanish-influenced number where delicate finger-picking gives way once more to those roaring drums and strings, this time with added brass.
It’s all in the name of fun, basically, and there’s absolutely no ulterior agenda. Hutz and co. sound like they are having a blast, which in turn puts a smile on your face too.
This leads to perhaps the biggest question surrounding this album, and Gogol’s work in general: is it supposed to be taken entirely seriously? First there’s Hutz’s voice which, as much as it symbolises his heritage, is bound to remind first-time listeners of Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen’s farcical Kazakhstani character.
Obviously only the most small-minded among us won’t be able to see past this, and Gogol Bordello are never likely to attract the small-minded anyway. Hutz doesn’t exactly help himself in this regard though, recalling another Cohen creation, Ali G, when he bafflingly asks “Is it because I am Russian?” on “I Just Realised”.
At times there are hints that the band might be onto something a little more subtle and meaningful on the record, with wistful accordion-led passages and a poignant number (“My Gypsy Auto Pilot”) about Hutz returning to his hometown to find himself a stranger; but another juvenile, debauched chorus is never too far away.
Hutz has talked of wordsmiths like Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen as being like his ‘uncles’ but his lyrics lack the subtlety and tenderness of these rock forefathers. You wouldn’t want it any other way, though.
There are enough storytelling traditionalists in the alternative scene, which is why Gogol Bordello are such a breath of fresh air. If Hutz’s message became too politicised it might detract from the positivity and energy of his music. Judging by Pura Vida Conspiracy, that would be a great shame indeed.
Pura Vida Conspiracy is out now on ATO Records.
Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!