Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-07-30


Gogol Bordello: 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-

Gogol Bordello: 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

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