The first time I saw Gogol Bordello was on Late Night with Conan O’Brien a couple years ago. And I thought they were freakin’ WEIRD. I thought, “Who are these weirdos and what is this crazy sound emitting from my television set?” I wasn’t turned off but my interest peaked a little.
I forgot about them for awhile until I noticed that a friend had their album, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike. After adding it to my library, I never touched it again until about a month ago.
After writing for ETS for awhile, I came to the conclusion that my reviews were all too positive. I set out on a mission to find something that I didn’t like so I could give it a negative review when I remembered the term “gypsy punk.” That sounds too weird to like, I’ll write about that. This whole plan failed miserably when I finally listened to Gogol Bordello’s album and discovered that it was actually one of the most interesting albums I’ve hard. And guess what? This one’s gonna get a positive review too!
When I think of gypsy music, I think of castanets (those little cymbals worn on the fingers), accordions and strings. Gogol Bordello uses all of these instruments along with guitar, bass and drums to fuse together their concoction of sound. Since they’re self-proclaimed gypsy punks, Gogol Bordello’s drums are fast, their guitars vary from acoustic to distorted, and lead singer Eugene Hütz’s guttural and rough voice brings it all together. The music is very polarizing because it is so different from American-influenced music but it’s good to get your culturalization on!
Honestly, all of the songs on this album are highlights, but some of my personal favorites are “I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again,” “Not a Crime,” “Immigrant Punk,” “60 Revolutions” and “Start Wearing Purple.”
Starting off with impossibly fast violins, “I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again” might throw you off guard with the inclusion of blood-curdling screaming. The song is incredibly fast-paced to the point that Hütz’s lyrics are practically indecipherable (as if his thick accent wasn’t hard enough to get past). There are punk elements in here that you can’t miss and add so much of that grind that punk is known for.
My favorite song is probably “Immigrant Punk,” which could be seen as Gogol Bordello’s anthem. It tells the story of an immigrant coming to America and keeping his/her culture alive, despite being in the good ol’ U.S. of A. It’s a great song that pretty much tells the story of the band that just wants to just make some good music and have some good times with people they can relate to.
This song has a noticeably slower tempo and even has a little ska influence, while throwing in accordions and strings throughout. The repetition of “Immigrant, immigrant, immigrant punk” can get a little tiring, but stick with the song because not only are the lyrics great, but the music itself will make your head bob for sure. These lyrics pretty much encompass the band and what they’re all about: “Despite living up in U.S.A./I’m still holding up in all my ways/I got a friends, we got a band/We still make sound you can’t stand.” They know that their music is different and polarizing, but it’s important to them to expose their culture to others. You can’t help but admire that!
The album’s single, “Start Wearing Purple,” is another slower song but has a great, catchy melody. Most of the song talks about how people go crazy but in the third verse, there is a glimpse of a sweet love song. Hütz also flexes his brain muscle by citing such philosophers as Diogenes Laërtius and Michel Foucault. Although, he could be just throwing the names out there … At any rate, Hütz knows how to write a catchy song! It’s a simple song that people debate has no real meaning, but the song is great nonetheless.
Gogol Bordello is pretty out there but you can’t live life or listen to your music with a closed mind and I’ve learned that from experience. Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike is a great album that will serve you up a taste you’ve never had before so open wide!
This album and their follow-up Super Taranta! are both available now.
Buy the album at our record store on Amazon
“Start Wearing Purple”
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