Gogol Bordello: Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony

Gogol Bordello
Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony

Gogol Bordello's second full-length album is an ecstatic drunken stagger across the globe, from the post-Soviet Union refugee camps of Eastern Europe to the slums of São Paolo. The six-piece band of Russian, Ukrainian, and Israeli immigrants takes polka and Gypsy rhythms and runs them through a punk-rock blender. The result is a celebration of globalization through carnality and hedonism that would make Thomas Friedman--or Paul Simon--blush.

The album opens innocently enough, with a lovely, fragile accordion flourish. "When the Trickster Starts A-Poking (Bordello Kind of Guy)" quickly layers on violin, saxophone, guitar, and drums, with the tempo steadily building until it evokes a gypsy wedding gone slightly haywire. Then Eugene Hütz opens his mouth. His broken-English snarl bites into the melody, chews it up, and spits it out, as if he can't stand the sonic order that his bandmates have created. "As I walked into the bar," Hütz snorts, "A man came up to me and said/You know the older you will get/The more perverted you will get."

Hütz's fragmented, profane, often hilarious lyrics are bellowed in both English and Russian, with the two languages often colliding and overlapping. "Smarkatch" is an infectious oom-pah number cut through with Hütz's lascivious yearnings: "So daddy, dear mister/I am a phallic trickster/And on your place I would be watching twice as much." "Punk Rock Parranda" is a gleeful call to (female) arms with Hütz warning that "in this kind of town, the women, they never get wet." But the album's centerpiece is "Bara Foro," nine staggering minutes of ever-escalating punk fury accented with bursts of flamenco guitar. "Future Kings" is the only misstep, with Hütz shrieking and wailing mournfully over a chaotic, melody-free soundscape of cymbal crashes and guitar distortion. It sounds like something Bauhaus might have recorded if they'd had an accordion player.

Gogol Bordello's booze-fueled shows are legendary in New York for Hütz's hypnotic intensity and stage antics involving ballet dancers and Mongolian throat singers. That mischievous energy courses through the album. What's most remarkable about Gogol Bordello is that, for all the band's strangeness, the music never feels like some calculated exercise in avant-garde multi-cultural chic. Instead it feels inevitable, as if this punk-gypsy-cabaret mélange were the only possible result of the band members' border-hopping journeys.

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