Gogol Bordello have been called everything from gypsy punk rockers to homeless fashionistas. What they have never been called before, however, is normal.
Combing eastern influenced guitar riffs to early punk-like violin solo's, all being surrounded in their live shows by belly dancers and fire breathers the band is almost more about spectacle than the music they play. This may explain why their latest album, Trans-continental Hustle, their first release on Rick Rubin's American Records, is disappointing. They sound... normal.
Comprised almost entirely of eastern immigrants now living in New York's lower eastside, Gogol Bordello caught fame with previous albums due to a combination of front man Eugene Hutz's boundless energy and the raw, catchy riffs the band created. On the new album, however, their efforts seem more muted. While Hutz still has the obvious passion for music that brought his music to the mainstream and garnered him film roles, such as in Liev Schreiber's excellent "Everything is Illuminated", on the record it seems by far the most subdued it ever has.
That's not to say the album is a real loss. Song's like the single "My Companjera", are early high lights that showcase their ability to truly come together as a band, despite their growing number of members. When Hutz sings "Jet-lag, hangover, malnutrition/ you can't fly in this condition/ and if no one intervene/ out of the window is my mission", it's hard not to believe him.
The other gem on the album, "We Comin' Rougher (Immigraniada)", a surprisingly relevant song that seems to echo the plight of many a modern day Arizonian, also serves to showcase the group's lyrical strength.
Yet, despite these few great tacks, the record as a whole seems to suffer from a sense of playing what was expected of them on their first major record label release. Hutz and co have decided to play it safe, toning down their frantic, more punk rock inspired jaunts for a more traditional eastern rock, and it shows. While the album will still be one of the better releases this year, when placed in the light of their other musical achievements, its raging light seems more like a match in the dark.
Check out the album for yourself HERE and form your own opinion! It'll probably even look better than mine.