Gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello make being different pretty cool and hip. Let’s face it, gypsy-punk is not your everyday style of music, particularly when conformity and uniformity seems to be an ‘it trend’. However, Gogol Bordello is exactly what the music industry could use more of to provide spice and more unpredictability. Following up previous album Transcontinental Hustle (2010), Pura Vida Conspiracy doesn’t miss a beat. Intriguing, manic, ambitious, and über-enjoyable are some adjectives that describe the listening experience. Frontman Eugene Hütz is pretty awesome. Add an intensifier between ‘pretty’ and ‘awesome’ if you wish.
“We Rise Again” sets a triumphant tone for Pura Vida Conspiracy. I mean, how cool is it in when you hear “Wataka, wataka / here we come ataka ataka / wataka, wataka here we come…” in any song? Sure, we hear “oh na na” consistently from Kelly Rowland (“Motivation”) or Rihanna (“What’s Your Name”), but “wataka”? “We Rise Again” rocks even beyond its punk cues. The energy and the ambitiousness is quite lofty. “Dig Deep Enough” continues in passionate, adventuresome fashion with exceptional songwriting. “We who seek long enough / dig deep enough / stay strong enough / away / we who seek long enough / dig deep enough (find a diamond in the rough) / stay strong enough / one day…”, Hütz sings on the fine chorus. As great as those lyrics are, among the most memorable lyrical moments is “And only the ones who get to reach stratosphere / get to see sun when it’s raining down here…” Two for two Gogol, two for two.
“Maladrino” outdoes the opening duo, which is saying a lot. Maybe it’s the narrative songwriting approach (“My birth I can hardly remember / but I remember from the start / my midwives looking at each other / ‘Wow this boy is born with singing heart’”) or maybe it’s the chorus in which I have no idea what’s going on (“Malandro, Malandro, Malandrino / Truffaldo, Truffaldino / Malandro, Malandro, Malandrino / I was born with singing heart”.) One thing’s for sure, Hütz manages to convey through tempi changes and words most are unaccustomed to that he “was born with singing heart”. Alrighty then.
“Lost Innocent World” continues on strongly, anchored by its chorus: “Lost innocent world / lost innocent paradise / where did you go / I paid too high a price… once I’ll get you back / I’ll never sacrifice”. As great as it is, “Is It The Way You Name Your Ship” stands out even more, particularly lyrics “But it is the way you name your ship / that’s the way it’s gonna row…”, which appears to have a deeper meaning beyond the literal. After consistent showings on “The Other Side of the Rainbow” (shout out to Pasha Newmar’s accordion skills) and “Amen” (“I know you, I know you better than you do…”), “I Just Realized” shows vocal restraint that nicely contrasts to more outlandish and overt vocal moments over the course of the album.
Have no fear though, “My Gypsy Auto Pilot” contrasts once more with manic energy and of course nonsensical syllables – yay! If nothing else occurs on Pura Vida Conspiracy, Hütz’s personality easily shines through without a hitch. On “Hieroglyph”, unified musical riffs are a highlight, not to mention the rhythmic lead vocals. Honestly, how do you respond to “I am a hieroglyph of love…”? On the penultimate “John the Conqueror (Truth is Always the Same)”, Michael Bernard Ward has some rad guitar effects going on. The groove is pretty hip too. Excellent closer “We Shall Sail” isn’t really over ten minutes (there’s a hidden track at the tail end). I won’t spoil it for you though, but it’s pretty cool!
All in all, Pura Vida Conspiracy is a fun and exciting listen. There are no misses in the least as each and every cut has something to offer. Both instrumentally and lyrically speaking, this album is top-notch. Again, gypsy-punk may not be your go to stylistic preference, but if you’ve never checked these guys out, you’re missing out on a treat!
Favorites: “We Rise Again”; “Dig Deep Enough”; “Malandrino”; “Is It The Way You Name Your Ship”; “We Shall Sail”
Gogol Bordello⎪ Pura Vida Conspiracy ⎪ ATO Records ⎪⎪ US Release Date: July 23, 2013
Gogol Bordello are:
Eugene Hütz (vocals, acoustic guitar, percussion & fire bucket), Elizabeth Chi-Wei Sun (Vocals), Pedro Erazo (vocals), Sergey Ryabtsev (violin), Pasha Newmer (accordion), Michael Bernard Ward (guitar), Thomas ‘Tommy T’ Gobena (bass), and Oliver Francis Charles (drums)