Review: Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta!
If there was ever an album that I was tempted to write a one word review for, this is it. The word? lol “Super Taranta!” is a raucus, riotous, party of an album with energy set on max and good will set on max+ and Gogol Bordello comes on like they’re probably one of the best live bands in the world.
Gogol Bordello is led by Eugene Hutz (with an umlaud over the “u” in Hutz) who would be a story even if he wasn’t leading such a terrific band. Hutz was born in the Ukraine and was moved out of his home area as a consequence of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown. He became a refugee traveling through Poland, Austria, Hungary and Italy and in the process getting deeply into gypsy music. He came to New York in 1993 and began singing gypsy music with various musicians. Over time, this loose collective coalesced into Gogol Bordello.
Hutz is an unrelentingly intense singer who also manages to communicate a simple concern for the fundamental humanity that unites people regardless of ethnicity. Think Borat with his mind set on having a good time rather than coldly exposing bias, prejudice and intolerance. Hutz’s vocal style is a combination of gravelly voiced talking/singing/shouting that is surprisingly nuanced. Gogol Bordello’s music is something else again. It’s based strongly in gypsy music with an unrelenting oom-pah 2/2 time signature but they weld elements of punk, rock and even dub onto this foundation and make all of it work beautifully. “Ultimate” is an almost perfect album opener. When the band comes crashing in after Hutz’s solo sung/spoken opening verse you know right away you’re in for a good time. The instrumentation relies heavily on acoustic guitar, violin and accordian and after you get past the uproarious good time nature of the album you realize that these guys can really play. The title track is the album closer and after a brief vocal introduction it’s pretty much a straight instrumental that sounds like an epic summation of all the variants of gypsy music that came before. Crescendo after crescendo, master class level playing, raw excitement – it’s amazing.
The 2/2 time signature can get tiring but there’s so much good music here that it’s not a major problem. If you’re having a party, “Super Taranta!” will play all the way through with ease. If you’re not and the 2/2 gets tiresome, leave it on till it wears out it’s welcome and come back to it later. Just make sure you pick it up where you left off so you don’t miss that spectacular last track.
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