released Apr 27th, 2010

from the album - My Companjera

bio from all music

Combining elements of punk, Gypsy music, and Brecht-ian cabaret, Gogol Bordello tell the story of New York's immigrant diaspora through debauchery, humor, and surreal costumes. Leader and singer Eugene Hütz's taste in music was spun out of black market tapes of the Birthday Party and Einstürzande Neubauten in his native Ukraine. After being evacuated to western Ukraine in 1986 following the Chernobyl disaster, Hütz became enamored of the mystical, outsider qualities of Gypsy music. Living as a refugee in Poland, Hungary, Austria, and Italy before moving to the United States in 1993, he experienced life as an outsider himself. After arriving in New York, he teamed up with guitarist Vlad Solofar and squeezebox player Sasha Kazatchkoff. American Eliot Fergusen added a strong rock sound on the drums and the band was also augmented by Sergey Rjabtzev on fiddle, a former theater director from Moscow whose past experience would prove helpful in the future in crafting Gogol Bordello's bizarre stage shows (like one that tells the story of super-powered immigrant Ukrainian vampires).

The group's early gigs involved playing straight Gypsy music at Russian weddings, but their music soon evolved into the hyper-kinetic explosions that earned them a solid following among New York's downtown hipsters. The band issued a single in 1999 entitled When the Trickster Comes A-Pokin', quickly followed by their debut full-length, Voi-La Intruder, which was produced by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds drummer Jim Sclavunos. Solofar and Kazatchkoff were replaced by accordionist Yuri Lemeshev, who hails from the Russian island of Sakhalin, and two Israelis, guitarist Oren Kaplan and saxophonist Ori Kaplan, who despite their similar names aren't related. Hütz helped bolster the band's popularity by becoming somewhat of a celebrity in the downtown scene, in part fueled by his Thursday night DJ gigs at Bulgarian club/restaurant/bar Mehanata, where he played Ukrainian, Gypsy, rai, and flamenco music for a crowd of artists, models, Ukrainians, Russians, Gypsies, and Bulgarians with tendencies toward exuberant dancing and smashing plates.

In the spring of 2002, Gogol Bordello embarked on a European tour and performed as part of the Whitney Biennial, bringing their music to a whole new audience. Voi-La Intruder came out around that same time, followed that fall by another album, Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony. The East Infection EP came out in March 2005 before Gogol Bordello made their Side One Dummy debut that August with the aptly titled Gypsy Punks. By this point, though the band's cast no longer included Ori Kaplan, it did boast bassist Rea Mochiach and dancers/percussionists Pam Racine and Elizabeth Sun. Aside from leading the band, Hütz also lent his hand to acting when he was cast as Alex in 2005's Everything Is Illuminated (based on the critically acclaimed book) after Gogol Bordello attracted the attention of the film's producer. The bandmembers soon got to work on their next album, however, switching to bass player Tommy Gobena and utilizing the talents of producer Victor Van Vugt to help them craft their fourth full-length, Super Taranta! Wildly praised by critics, who pasted the album all over their year-end lists, Super Taranta! (as well as the band's increasingly physical live shows) made them indie rock heroes. Live from Axis Mundi was released in 2009, followed by the group's Rick Rubin-produced fifth studio offering, Transcontinental Hustle in 2010.

album review from all music

Trans-Continental Hustle, Gogol Bordello's fifth studio album, first on a major label, and first with producer-guru extraordinaire Rick Rubin, is one that you really want to love. It has everything about it that Gogol Bordello fans demand: rollicking punk-and-fiddled fueled verses, and rousing and easy-to-chant choruses. Most of all, it has plenty of Eugene Hütz, the impassioned, gravel-and-vodka-voiced singer who has nearly single-handedly — with his playful take on English grammar and intermittent bursts of other languages, penchant for chanting, and his endlessly inspiring and exhausting live performances — has brought various gypsy cultures from the fringe to something celebrated (and performed) by Madonna, without ever seeming like he was selling out or doing anything that wasn't really, really cool. Culturally, musicologically, socially, politically, and even literarily, there's much to say about it.

Strictly musically, however, there's something missing here — something that's hard to place, but something that separates Trans-Continental Hustle from Gypsy Punks and Super Taranta!. Hütz is still an endlessly fascinating frontman who deserves all the attention he gets and more, and he knows how to turn any hook into a sweat-drenched, beer-soaked anthem, but inevitably, and it is as with many bands, his songs begin to resemble one another. Lines are reused and reappropriated in the creation of an aesthetic, in the process risking a diminution of power through the repetition. Hütz, assuredly aware of this, attempts to combat it by adding new elements: Brazil's fervo is incorporated in "In the Meantime in Pernambuco," dub pops up again in "We Comin' Rougher (Immigraniada)," and even something that approaches an Eastern European pop love song is found in "Rebellious Love," one of the few bad songs Hütz has ever written.

The core of the band, however, is the rambunctious "gypsy punk" they're known for, and it's what doesn't quite measure up here. There's still plenty of energy and hooky lines and growling, driving verses (one can certainly credit Rubin for changing nothing), but sadly, there's nothing that grabs you and sticks with you the way that "Immigrant Punk," "American Wedding," "Sally," or "Start Wearing Purple" did, and still do. The songs on Trans-Continental Hustle, instead, sound more pieced together from previous efforts rather than from new thoughts, and suffer from a lack of distinct identity. There's plenty good here, that's undeniable, but the album lacks the spark to push it forward and place it at the top.

Track Listing

1 Pala Tute
2 My Companjera
3 Sun is On My Side
4 Rebellious Love
5 We Comin' Rougher (Immigraniada)
6 When Universes Collide
7 Uma Menina Uma Cigana
8 Raise the Knowledge
9 Last One Goes the Hope
10 To Rise Above
11 In the Meantime In Pernambuco
12 Break the Spell
13 Trans-Continental Hustle