Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Gogol Bordello

  • Voi-La Intruder [Rubric, 2002] *
  • Multi Kontra Culti Vs. Irony [Rubric, 2002] A-
  • East Infection [Rubric EP, 2005] A-
  • Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike [Side One Dummy, 2005] A
  • Super Taranta! [Side One Dummy, 2007] A+
  • Live From Axis Mundi [Side One Dummy, 2009] ***
  • Trans-Continental Hustle [Columbia, 2010] ***
  • Pura Vida Conspiracy [ATO, 2013] A
  • Seekers and Finders [Cooking Vinyl, 2017] A-
  • Solidaritine [Cooking Vinyl/Casa Bordello, 2022] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Voi-La Intruder [Rubric, 2002]
New Yorkers to the Slavic bone ("Greencard Husband," "God-Like") *

Multi Kontra Culti Vs. Irony [Rubric, 2002]
Recorded with Ori Kaplan still providing Gypsy brass and Eugene Hutz still learning to write melodies and speak Roma, this prophetic effort peaks twice: with the long-vanished debut single "When the Trickster Starts a-Poking (Bordello Kind of Guy)" and "Baro Foro," a six-minute faux-Roma romp keyed to the more-more-more Sergey Rjabatzev violin riff that has anchored their climax ever since. But down from those peaks isn't so damn far. "Let's Get Radical" and "Punk Rock Parranda" are as disruptive as trans-everything trickster ideology-poking gets. A-

East Infection [Rubric EP, 2005]
For two albums, Eugene Hutz's concept was better than his songs. On this EP, spillover off an album in progress is manna from Thrace. No need to repeat the contentious bathhouse romp "Ave. B"--the flag-waving "East Infection," the baton-passing "Strange Uncles From Abroad," and the Romanian-tuned "Madagascar" would have sufficed. A-

Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike [Side One Dummy, 2005]
I've never gotten the very few bands like this: neither black nor green Negresses Vertes, strident pub politicos Black 47, squeezeboxing omnivore Kepa Junkera. Even before it jelled, however, I got this. Balkan immigrants flee some combination of thieving bureaucrats, bootstrapping hustlers, Yugoslavian genocide, and anomie. The underworld no-accounts of old Montmartre pursuing Eurotrash chic, they valorize their half-imposed marginalization by reaching out to fellow jetsam from other international backwaters where Islam is an everyday thing. Bootstrapping hustler Eugene Hutz formed a band in this subculture, which for all I know he invented first--rock, yes, but with its segmented groove and village dance rhythms very un-American (and un-African). This album is that band's statement of principle, cri de coeur, and ring grab--Hutz hectoring his way through a bacchanalian rant that's broken into songs that want to be slogans. Sixty revolutions per minute, this is my regular speed. You are the only life there is for yourself my friend. It is all connected through the Gypsy part of town. A

Super Taranta! [Side One Dummy, 2007]
Because I so adored 2005's Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike (making it hard to accept a follow-up), feared overselling an act seen as exotic (accordions and violins are wilder than keybs) and loved the opener so much it dwarfed the rest ("There were never any good old days"--exactly), I hedged my emotions here. But six months after I got the advance, I love it all. Dubbing in a nonreggae reggae tribute, laughing about immigration's generation gap, turning "frustration into inspiration" and disillusion into resolve, the four somewhat less tuneful songs in the middle sum up Eugene Hutz's politics of joy. He leads the world's most visionary band. And once you learn to hear its multicontinental get-down, rooted in the Balkans' Islamo-Christian stomp, it's also one of the hardest rocking. A+

Live From Axis Mundi [Side One Dummy, 2009]
Very live BBC session plus odds and sods plus DVD worth seeing for more than its very very live climax ("Troubled Friends," "Ultimate"). ***

Trans-Continental Hustle [Columbia, 2010]
Hmm--the two catchiest new songs by the now Brazil-based Eugene Hutz are the two with Latin titles ("Companjera," "Uma Menina Uma Cigana"). ***

Pura Vida Conspiracy [ATO, 2013]
Although half the old band are gone, the first two songs resume their crusade with undiminished bravado and a new melodicism that never quits. "Dig Deep Enough," Eugene Hutz half implores and half commands. Why should we, old-timer? Because "We Rise Again." Just as powerfully, the next two dabble in both lyricism and the nostalgia Hutz has mocked so adamantly. And although thereafter the songwriting dips from world-historic to merely excellent, this tension powers a revitalization that had damn well better incorporate some change, because without it the "living and loving" Hutz insists are the ridiculously simple yet damnably difficult secret of human existence will stiffen and die. No other band worth caring about risks the cosmic like Hutz's immigrant tatterdemalion. Re-examining his past, he imagines a future you can hum in your mind. A

Seekers and Finders [Cooking Vinyl, 2017]
"That love crusade it never started / Only friends fought and lovers parted," Eugene Hutz snarls or sobs amid the sardonic war-cry opener "Did It All." Since before 9/11, this insatiable seeker has been accessing his "higher self" via a rock he translated into grand, Slavic, violin-sawing immigrant punk. But at 45 he never forgets what he found out early--that all transcendence is temporary because only mortal humans can transcend. He gets weary and admits it; he's messed up big time and admits that too; the songs come slower now. But he still feels the "immigrant stamina" of his chosen "familia the undividable." And he still won't truck with nostalgia. "Remember times when the colors were brighter / And streets were filled with easy rhyme / It is still that way / If you ask about it / Kid who's flying five stairs at one time." A-

Solidaritine [Cooking Vinyl/Casa Bordello, 2022]
Now 50, Eugene Hutz obviously hasn't grown more mellifluous with the years, but the rawness isn't just physiological. Having fled Ukraine with his part-Roma family in the wake of Chernobyl 1986, Hutz spent six years getting to the U.S., where by the early '00s he was on his way to worldwide cult renown. But since he now finds his birth nation under brutal attack by a new breed of fascists, it's only natural that his 2022 songs are rawer, angrier, and less "musical" than those on 2017's Seekers and Finders. What may seem less natural until you figure out why you can't stop listening is that this is his best album ever not counting 2007's triumphant Super Taranta! Raw and angry is only a precondition--it shares its title with the imaginary hormone named on the opening track, a biochemical miracle that unites humans engaged in concerted struggle. After which the album unfurls song after song that evoke such a struggle: "I'm Coming Out" (as a human who resists "the technogenic sphere"), "Take Only What You Can Carry" (your bare hands will do to scoop water), "Knack for Life" (the faculty that helps you sense when the ice is too thin). It's "The Era of the End of Eras," and we'd better adjust. Fugazi gets a cover, Bad Brains a cameo. It's all hands on deck. A

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