Since forming in New York City in 1999, Gogol Bordello’s increasing success has crowned the band as the foremost promoters of the ‘Gypsy punk’ sound: think insistent, stomp-along beats, poignantly harmonic minor-tinged vocals, and stringy rock riffs giving way to shuffling, rhythmic acoustic guitars.
And it’s all punctuated by enough accordions, horns and strings to maintain the intense, underlying presence of traditional Gypsy and Eastern-European music for which the band is best known. Furiously grandiose – the perfect grubby, vodka-drenched party soundtrack – the band’s sound remains instantly recognisable even when it veers into other genres like dub and assorted flavours of world music.
With a continually evolving line-up that currently features members from Russia, China, Belarus, Ethiopia, Ecuador, the USA and Brazil, the band arrives in São Paulo after three other national dates (including a Rock in Rio gig) in support of Pura Vida Conspiracy, the follow-up to 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle.
The latest record doesn’t break any ground or provide much in the way of unexpected deviations, but rather, effectively continues in the band’s own unusual tradition; the song ‘Malandrino’ shines with its absorbing Mexican brass touches; the chugging garage guitar of ‘Lost Innocent World’ jumps up with a monumental chorus fleshed out with feverish melodic string lines; while the mellow café feel of ‘I Just Realized’ provides a soothing respite from the record’s otherwise buoyant madness.
When singing in English – which is the majority of the time, though the lyrics are peppered with Ukrainian and Spanish, among other languages – thick-accented frontman Eugene Hütz still comes across as if he’s putting on an act as a direct-article-challenged Soviet-era stereotype. But that detail actually works in the band’s favour, lending an extra bit of authenticity to a group comprised of persistently touring citizens of the world, who require no further proof of their hard-line commitment to a blissfully good time.