Eugene Hütz may appear of normal height and perhaps might be mistaken for an ordinary common being, if it was not for his brightly colored patchwork outfits and a wildness in his eyes which suggests that he clearly defies typical socialised norms. The lead front man for this 8 piece gypsy punk outfit is, it is safe to say, larger than life. He is credited for pioneering the gypsy punk genre and he fronts a massive ensemble (by punk standards) known as Gogol Bordello. For 13 years , 6 studio albums and countless tours, Hütz and company have crafted a unique sound that playfully invites grandma from the old country up for a Balkan circle dance then quickly changes to a full throttle assault on anything within the ensuing radius.
Originating from Ukraine but based in New York, Hütz and his band Gogol Bordello take folk sounds and musical patterns from Eastern Europe and hurl it at the wall so Manhattan street punks can recognise them despite the fact that an accordion and fiddle are featured front and centre. It is an inspiring combination to say the least and one that has not tired over time. From their somewhat humble but rather loud beginnings in 1999, Gogol Bordello has not changed their approach a great deal, other than perfecting their craft. Classics like ‘Start Wearing Purple’, ‘Wonderlust King’, ‘Immigrandiada’ and ‘Think Locally, Fuck Globally’ all have the common effect of stirring crowds into a frenzy with fist pumps and bear hugs combined. Pure Vida Conspiracy continues that tradition with another raucous collection of songs that dig much deeper than just simple guitar angst. Through Hütz’ thick eastern European accent, we here stories of hope and humanity and we learn that he has many excellent stories to tell and teaching to impart.
Of course, the album doesn’t start out that way. Its opening lines highlight just how off their rocker these gypsy-rockers really are – “whata-kowataka-here-we-come-atakataka” or something like that, becomes the war chant for ‘We Rise Again’. Then yes, we are bulled into submission by an angry accordion and fiddle, along with the guitars and other more traditional punk pieces.
Things really pick up when Hütz switches languages and ups the tempo. The track bleeds high energy and optimism for the future, a sentiment shared with the second and equally endearing track titled ‘We Dig Deeper’. Both the openers are destined to become GB classics as well the incredibly infectious ‘Gypsy Auto Pilot’ and ‘John the Conqueror’ which detonate choral choruses in a grandiose fashion.
While the album meanders on to allegorical images of trees bending with the weight of the snow in reference to carrying the weight of the world, the band never lose their sense of rah, but they do lose their sense of punk and exchange it for a folkier aesthetic. The gorgeously arranged ‘I Just Realized’ and the acoustic closer ‘We Shall Sail’ both show the bands softer more intimate side (though the track continues on to reveal a hidden song full of complete manic chaos as never before heard on the album).
There is as much tenderness as there is explosiveness on Pure Vida Conspiracy and the band once again demonstrate their depth, breadth and potential for excellent showmanship. On ‘Malandrino’, Hütz tells us he was born with a singing heart. While he might sound like the most unlikely of candidates to take up that post as a profession, we are certainly glad he did.