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The ‘new pogues’ return with shit-kickingly good new record
Peter Murphy, 18 May 2010
There’s a grand moment halfway through ‘Pala Tute’ – Gogol Bordello’s roadworn live anthem finally recorded for posterity here – where they do a ‘Twist & Shout’ style four-part ascending aaaaah harmony with a twist of gypsy blue note. A moment to unite the festival rabble and the bespectacled musicologists – or set them further at odds.
We’ve been here before. Gogol Bordello are to this decade what the Pogues were to the ‘80s: shitkicking mongrels playing gonzo roots music in a time when mainstream rock is overproduced and asinine. Eugene Hutz’s mob might offend the purists, but the moshpit hordes could give a monkey’s. And while Hutz, for all his ruffian charisma, is nowhere near as eloquent a songwriter as MacGowan, even the Pogues in their prime would’ve been hard put to blow the Gogols off the stage.
Trans-Continental Hustle is the band’s fifth album, and where they once used Steve Albini to capture their live fire, now they employ Rick Rubin, a man renowned for mercilessly interrogating the material prior to recording. Here he’s brought out hitherto unsuspected possibilities in the Gogols’ sound. ‘Rebellious Love’ is a classic ‘70s Philly disco pastiche channeled through a Ramblas mangler. ‘When Universes Collide’ and ‘Immigraniada’, both halfway between Fugazi and the Gypsy Kings, are as powerful a testimony to the 21st century protest song as you’ll find this year. ‘Break the Spell’ and the title tune are Mescaleros-style global village rave-ups. ‘My Companjera’ and ‘Sun Is On My Side’ double as love songs and Rimbaudian hymns to freewill, self determination and the open road.
Hutz will never be Caruso – or Dylan – but don’t let the mad-bastard phrasing fool you: he’s mastered the shamanistic yarragh, that phlegmatic, guttural vocal quality that stirs the soup in any soul. All this allied to an Olympic-standard rhythm section and a blazing lead instrumentalist in the form of violinist Sergey Ryabtsev. Imbibe.