From the looks of the album cover of Gogol Bordello’s new album, Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike, the ten-person band from Eastern Europe seem like they would be foreign punks with slightly more rebellion than The Get Up Kids with a seasoning of anarchy and humor. What they are is a group of “gypsy-punks” with an immense amount of energy, the ability to get the audience’s attention, and the talent that it takes to make an accordion acceptable in a pop-punk society.
When the first song, “Sally,” started playing, I was a little startled. It started out with some light beats and a few words in an Eastern-European language, followed by an accordion and a violin. Immediately following the preliminary instruments, the song went into the lyrics, sung by a man who sounded like an angry Ukrainian, telling a story about a fifteen-year-old girl from Nebraska. Apparently, Sally picked something up from the gypsies that were going through her town, thus starting a cult revolution. As my roommate escorted herself from the room, I felt like I should have been at the wedding
for the head of the Russian mafia’s daughter, dancing in a huge circle holding hands with drunken relatives, while being afraid that at any minute someone could just go crazy and start an Eastern-European-style mosh pit. So, it sounded a little ridiculous, but then again, who doesn’t like ridiculous music.
It is often the different and new music that sells the most albums and gains the biggest following. The themes revolving around in the music and the lyrics like a twisted merry-go-round of anger and obnoxiousness reminded me of a Ukrainian-style version of the Sex Pistols. The song “Drop the Charges” also represents an attitude that is circulated through punk and rap music in America. The speaking interludes mixed in with the song provide depth and variety in style. The music on this album seems, in some songs, like Sublime or Bob Marley, using a hint of reggae, or even like Enrique Iglesias or Carlos Santana, often sounding somewhat along the lines of Spanish-style club music.
However, the instruments that express the nationality of the band, such as the accordion, the string instruments, and the rest of the instruments you would expect to be found at a traditional bar mitzvah, give the band its signature sound. The band’s lead singer, former Burlington resident Eugene Hutz, is not afraid to take his Ukranian-gypsy-punk style to the kids that listen to his music; in fact, he loves it. He even sports a thick mustache in order to proudly present his Ukrainian-ness to the audience. He takes this new form of music to the limits, and as for the lyrics, who else would have the balls to command the audience to “start wearing purple for me now?” The band had two songs recently released on the soundtrack for the film Everything Is Illuminated, starring Elijah Wood and Gogol Bordello’s crazy front man himself, Eugene Hutz. Being that the movie took place in the Ukraine, Gogol Bordello’s sound made for a perfect addition to the movie’s quirky feel.
It’s the new sound, immense energy, and slick lyrics that make the music of Gogol Bordello something that could develop a cult following. Yes, I admit it’s a little shocking at first, but if you give it a chance, it grows on you. I recommend listening to a few songs in particular, like “Not a Crime,” “Start Wearing Purple,” and “Avenue B.” By giving them a chance I guarantee you’ll never see the Ukraine in the same way again.