Album Review

Aaron George
Some time around a decade ago Eugene Hutz put together a band with the intention of spreading traditional Gypsy-style music to the world. Since then, Gogol Bordello has been one the most explosive bands around that many people probably haven't heard of. Their method for this beautiful madness has been of their own invention and goes by the fitting name "Gypsy Punk". While being somewhat unknown in the mainstream, Gogol has become one of the most respected underground acts in recent years, not only releasing four studio albums that are each stuffed with their own unique sort of passion, but also finding their way into movies (Everything is Illuminated, Wristcutters, Filth and Wisdom) while still touring almost nonstop. Their music is both raw and well-defined, and they are easily the most potent rock group to ever emerge from the world of Eastern Europe and make noise in the U.S. (take that Scorpions).

Their most recent studio release, Transcontinental Hustle, sees the band working with famed producer Rick Ruben, as well as turning the volume down a bit and focusing more on traditional Gypsy music than the punk they had adopted and made wholly their own. You won't find much distortion on Hustle, but what you will find is music that seems born of something ancient, far beyond the realm of the usual pop song and into the world of music made for the sake of making something as close to eternal as we can get. It's easy to imagine any of these songs being played at a Romani camp ages ago, and the music serves as probably the fullest realization of Hutz.

The album opens with the bands version of “Pala Tute”, this song is literally a traditional Romani number and it is played amazingly with fiddle work that stands out as a highlight of the whole disc. If you are new to Gogol, than one thing that will jump out at you from the moment you turn on this song is the unique broken English Hutz uses throughout. This actually ends up being one of the most endearing things about the band and the line, "But momma they have girl, that I love the best" and "If you slave to kissing, you gotta play this thing" are excellent examples. Another song that sticks with the listener is "Sun Is On My Side" which is a more morose piece than would be expected, and the first time I can recall the band ever dealing with the subject of death. We also hear more delicate guitar work from Hutz on this track, as well as a more clear listen to his vocals, which sound grittier on Hustle than on previous releases. I don't have enough time to get into what makes every song on this album so good, but all thirteen tracks have something great to offer. Some personal favorites include "Raise the Knowledge" which plays like a worship song to human intellect. Also the song "When Universes Collide" is that a reference to M-Theory? The band is never exactly clear on spiritual matters, but possibly my favorite aspect of their music is simultaneous embracing of hedonism and science, while also leaving room for something mystical or supernatural.

If you are new to the band, you might want to look into some of their previous albums, however if you typically don't like things loud, fast, and energetic (to say the least) then this album might be great on its own. When I first heard the album I was disappointed. Having been unaware of the band while they where making their first four discs, I wanted to hear something new that was similar. After listening to the album a few more times though I began to appreciate it for almost completely different reasons. The music is more mature here, and while no band may have ever done spastic as well as these guys and gals, Hustle ends up being in some ways more layered and when taken in context to their last album, Super Taranta, it fits perfectly into the band’s evolution. Hustle is the sort of music that will dance a circle around you and remind you that most of life is beautiful.