The gypsy punks' fourth album sees them finally breaking into the mainstream. But...
Chris White 2007
From the frenetic hip-hop of Balkan Beat Box to the subtler instrumental textures of A Hawk And A Hacksaw, the traditional gypsy music of Eastern Europe is becoming an increasingly prominent feature of the U.S. alternative rock scene.
By far the most fun of all the acts influenced by the genre are New York’s hugely entertaining ‘gypsy punks’ Gogol Bordello, winners of this year’s Radio 3 Award For World Music (in the Americas category). Led by the resplendently-moustachioed Ukrainian refugee, Eugene Hütz, this loose collective of musicians from around the globe has become a huge hit on the UK festival scene over the last few years, whipping audiences into a frenzy with their whirling dervish fiddles and accordions, Clash-like guitar riffing and Hütz’s incendiary stage presence.
Inevitably, Bordello lose a little of their live show’s intensity on record, but Super Taranta, their fourth album, is still a real blast. Existing fans will lap up riotous romps like ‘’Supertheory Of Supereverything’’ and ‘’Harem In Tuscany (Taranta)’’ which follow the tried and tested Hütz formula of building slowly from cabaret waltz to a breakneck speed crescendo. And although there’s nothing quite as anthemic as ‘’Start Wearing Purple’’ from 2005’s breakthrough Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike, there’s arguably more in the way of invention. ‘‘Tribal Connection’’ flirts with reggae yet somehow ends up sounding like Men At Work’s 80s smash, ‘’Down Under’’, while the near-seven minutes of the closing title track hurtle to and fro across a bewildering array of tempos, showcasing the band’s musical virtuosity to impressive effect.
A strong advocate of Romany culture and opponent of authoritarianism in all forms, Hütz’s lyrics are another highlight of Super Taranta. Often controversial, always impassioned and sometimes hilarious, his cross-cultural observations, delivered with an engagingly eccentric lexicon that occasionally veers off into his mother tongue, never fail to beguile. And if there is another songwriter who could concoct the couplet ‘Have you ever been to an American wedding, where is the vodka, where’s marinated herring,’ then this reviewer is yet to hear them.