Album Review: Gogol Bordello – “Pura Vida Conspiracy”

The pure, orchestrated chaos that is the anarchistic gypsy punk outfit known as Gogol Bordello could be called many things, but boring isn’t one of them. Coming up on fifteen years of service, Gogol isn’t just one of the most unique bands in punk rock, but one of the most consistent. The touring almost never stops, the records drop like clockwork roughly every two years and the live performances are and have always been, some of the most intense, theatrical, entertaining gong shows money can buy.

Their 2007 record ‘Super Taranta!’ introduced them to a wider audience on the back of widespread critical acclaim and huge record sales. And while ‘Taranta’ is still the band’s bar setting record, they haven’t released a bad album since their 1999 debut ‘Voi-La Intruder.’ In fact, ‘Taranta’s proper follow up, 2011’s ‘Trans-Continental Hustle’ sold even better than it did.

Now it’s 2013 and ‘Pura Vida Conspiracy,’ Gogol Bordello’s new studio album is unleashed unto the masses.

Catchy horns and otherworldly chants kick the record off in the right direction, with front man Eugene Hutz’s now familiar, heavily accented vocal work quickly joining the mix and declaring the band rising again in a swirling of gypsy dancehall swing.

A trio of mandolins that recall the Italian countryside press the gas on ‘Dig Deep Enough.’ A song which doesn’t stay subdued very long before a cinematic swelling of shout along choruses that evoke strength and longevity in music and lyrical content. It’s one of the best songs on the record and impossibly infectious, easily dancing between tempos and levels of aggression. It wouldn’t be overrated to call it a masterpiece.

‘Malandrino’ is another hyper reworking of some more traditional Italian music. Malandrino actually means rascal in Italian and Eugene assures us in the song that he was born one, came by it naturally and intends to remain as such indefinitely.

‘Lost Innocent World’ is an angry, adrenaline-spiking ditty that follows the same basic song structure this band has become known for (quiet, loud, louder, louder still, loudest).

And while you can find elements of every musical genre the world has ever known in the bars of a Bordello record, ‘Name Your Ship’ is probably as close to Celtic punk as you’ll ever hear this band getting.

‘Rainbow’ has that wide orchestral sweep that fills every spare inch of sound in the space it occupies and reminds you what a well considered and conceived wall of sound Gogol Bordello is beneath all the insanity.

I’ve always been partial to Gogol Bordello’s faster songs than their slower ones (which makes sense as I’ve always been partial to faster songs in general than slower ones). As such the quality of ‘Pura Vida’ wanes a bit for me in its second half (with the exception of the brilliant ‘Gypsy Auto Pilot’). This is where you’ll find much of the album’s more contemplative, ballad-y cuts. They’re not bad songs and if you’ve been jumping around your room playing guitar on a broom and yelling and yodeling at the top of your lungs for the first six songs, then a few of the last six will give you some much needed time to catch your breath.

It must be said that Gogol Bordello is softening with age. I’m sorry but that’s a fact. There is a restraint that creeps more and more into every subsequent record the band release, away from the more wild, hyperkinetic abandon exemplified in records like ‘Gypsy Punks’ and the aforementioned ‘Taranta!’

‘Pura Vida Conspiracy’ contains some of the bands most well written and exciting songs to date, but as a whole isn’t on the level as some of their earlier records. Which is in no way a non-recommendation. On the contrary, this record is a must have, or at the very least a must listen for fans of the band and fans of multi-instrumental, worldly sounding punk rock with deceptively deep lyrical content.

And, perhaps most importantly, this shit’s going to sound insane live.

4.5/5 Stars

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