GOGOL BORDELLO/JUF: Classic or Dud?

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Just picked up this album (Gogol B remixed, I guess, by Tamir Muskat, erstwhile drummer for Big Lazy and my non-KJ favorites, Firewater). I've seen Gogol Bordello live (which is always a bugfuck, batshit crazy experience), but had never picked up any of their albums. Aptly dubbed "WHAT THE FUCK STYLE", this disc is entirely entertaining -- and dizzyingly eclectic. Imagine Sandinista crossed with the theme song to "The Takng of Pelham One Two Three" as played by a drunken Jewish wedding band in an Indian restaurant. I picked it up on the strength of the F'water association and the liner blurb alone:

AFTERPARTY ON THE FRONTLINE
Perhaps somewhere in between the sounds of Gogol Bordello, my dj-ing in Bulgarian Bar, Punjabi Restaurants, the Spanish Car service and Arabic fabric stores lays the beginning of JUF'S SOUND - NEW YORK PROGRESSIVE UNDERGROUND DISCOTHEQUE. it also comes from the need to hear music that we want. But nobody is making. Where the fuck is? For example, GYPSY-DISCO-PUNK for the after party. Where is ARABIC-DUB-SEXTURA and where the fuck is the soundtrack for a Balkan train robbery? Well, with the expertise of our friends who are hip to BALKAN BEAT it might not take much time to make. Especially if their names are OREN KAPLAN, ORI KAPLAN and TAMIR MUSKAT....yes, that one..from VIBROMONK. So here it is. While Gogol is hard at work on the new album here is a project approached differently -- a TOTAL PIZDETZ DANCEHALL MELTDOWN 2004 straight out of BROADWAY AND CANAL with a heart the size of Brooklyn.

Juice frements into Wine. Punk Goes Into Dub and Party Turns Into After-Party. Sometimes GOGOL BECOMES JUF. Just for a moment. And that's how we keep it together. WHAT THE FUCK STYLE!
- DJ Eugene Hutz, NYC


Awesome.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 17:08 (sixteen years ago) link

I bought their "VOI-LA Intruder" CD on the strength of an ecstatic live review in the Guardian, but haven't really been able to get to grips with it. The sound is wild, but the songs don't really come together for me, and I think there's some kind of concept I also don't get.

Does sound like everyone is having a great time though, and I can well believe it's a hell of a live experience.

S

Soukesian, Tuesday, 14 September 2004 17:32 (sixteen years ago) link

That sounds about right, S. They stumble upon great hooks, but don't always bring proceedings to any sort've fruition. But live, it's like Mutiny on Drunken Monkey Island.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 17:38 (sixteen years ago) link

One of the best live bands I've seen in a long time. Multi Kontra is hit or miss, Voil-La moreso, but the hits are incredible. "Baro Foro", second encore! With drum line!

nameom (nameom), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 17:56 (sixteen years ago) link

I have to say, as much as I'm really enjoying this disc......that is sincerly bad cover art.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 21:09 (sixteen years ago) link

yeah i got a promo of this ages ago. it's really good.

jess (dubplatestyle), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 21:13 (sixteen years ago) link

gypsy dancehall!

jess (dubplatestyle), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 21:13 (sixteen years ago) link

Ain't it? I'm so digging it.

Alex in NYC (vassifer), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 21:14 (sixteen years ago) link

This is the type of thing that almost always sounds better live than on album. Anyone else pick up that Trikont Russendisko compilation? It sounds too "together", too produced or something. Gypsy punk should be sloppy! (I digress; I haven't heard this particular album, but I'm interested in checking it out)

I always thought it would be cool to catch Eugene Hutz DJing somewhere, but since I don't live in NY, that's probably out of the question. Where's the bootleg CD-R DJ mixes?!

Jeff Sumner (Jeff Sumner), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 20:36 (sixteen years ago) link

I've heard Gogol Bordello kick it live. This disc is pretty monotonous, though. Reminds me of Deadlee’s “Assault with a Deadlee Weapon.” Great idea on paper....

mottdeterre, Wednesday, 15 September 2004 22:48 (sixteen years ago) link

three months pass...
Revive 'cause there's a DJ Hutz mix out there, per the latest issue of The Fader. Anybody know where to cop it?

Jeff Sumner (Jeff Sumner), Thursday, 6 January 2005 23:07 (sixteen years ago) link

nine months pass...
Gogol Bordello vs. Tamir Muskat-Balkanization Of Americanizatio (I cannot find this anywhere, anyone want to be my YSI fairy?)

also--my stylus review:
http://www.stylusmagazine.com/review.php?ID=3479

and addendum
reading reviews about MIA, thinking about googol bordello--i wonder, the sections on chechneya, i cant read them, im monolingual, i depend on translations, which means i cannot tell if he is in favour or not, and also, i think something that i implied in my review but didnt say directly, was that pluralism, interzone, poco, etc does not mean that it is peaceful, or w/o conflict, or utopia--one of the things that needs to be remembered about WSB's view of it all (and the theoritical baggage of the letterists/situtationists etc) is that none of this is nice or polite or done with permission, and the radical chic of the whole enterprise needs to be

simon reyonalds calls it ghetto house in his review of the MIA and maybe b/c of where i am living now, or family history or something in how european they are or the length of their presence in america makes it more acceptable, less the favela or reggaetron (though gb incorprates both of those) then kleezmer or something already kitschified by the boho borgies...he is dragging himself out of that though, but to what?

the album is great, like MIA's album is great, but perhaps great b/c of its ambguity ?

anthony, Wednesday, 26 October 2005 07:28 (fifteen years ago) link

heh, i helped a kid find the gogol bordello cd today and he was buying it for his mom!

fortunate hazel (f. hazel), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 08:16 (fifteen years ago) link

Don't want to be mean, anthony, but that's some truly awful writing. Yeah, E. European Jews had a hybrid culture, but Klezmer, sung in Yiddish, is "multi-lingual"? The Jews of Eastern Europe were "isolated"? Pretty vibrant world in Klezmer's heydey; is "isolation" supposed to be the condition of all immigrant communities? And wtf: Gdansk was Soviet? Only during a brief occupation at the end of ww2. Why do you continually refer to "Gogol" as if that's the name of the singer? His name is Eugene Hütz. "I can imagine that music appears like this in Jew and Romany refugee camps"--where are the "Jew" refugee camps today??? (and, perhaps even more importantly, would they have amplifiers?) The last paragraph is a fucking disaster. Yeah, Nikolai (why "Nikoli" here?) Gogol's proto-absurdism suits this band. But what were the "seismic changes" of the 1830s and 40s? Gogol didn't "flee" to Rome, he left while in the good graces of the Czar. "Now imagine a whole whorehouse filled to the rafters with Inspector Generals…this album is what that would sound like." That is totally incoherent--the chaos in that play is caused by people reacting to a person they think is the inspector general. And why a bordello, anyway? If you're gonna interpret the name of the band, at least try.

And, finally, I give you:
"His theme is the constant question: how do you fit in as part of the creative class when desperation replaces hipness?"

eh I just don't see that as being central to the band or the album, more like your need for a rhetorical question at a certain point of the review.

eek, Wednesday, 26 October 2005 17:29 (fifteen years ago) link

does anyone know where i can find this record? i have the "proper album," which i bought cuzza jess's review & my natural affinity for this stuff; seemed right up my alley. but the remixization sounds even MORE up the old alley

s1ocki (slutsky), Wednesday, 26 October 2005 17:56 (fifteen years ago) link

I got the J.U.F. album on eBay, but it was also available via Amazon, half.com etc.

eek, Wednesday, 26 October 2005 18:00 (fifteen years ago) link

CLASSIC ALBUM!!

Idle Idle (idleidleidle), Thursday, 27 October 2005 03:50 (fifteen years ago) link

three months pass...
finally listening to the vs tamir muskat album. i am interviewing mr. moustache tomorrow!

s1ocki (slutsky), Tuesday, 7 February 2006 20:41 (fifteen years ago) link

one month passes...
Just back from Gogol Bordello live in Glasgow. Absolute fuckin' mayhem. 'All comes together live' doesn't begin to cover it. Hutz is right out there with Lux and Iggy. But with a 'tache. Anyone else see it?

Soukesian, Thursday, 9 March 2006 00:36 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...

The new album is killer. I can't get off of it.

kenan, Monday, 25 June 2007 06:55 (fourteen years ago) link

saw a bit of them on Glastonbury TV coverage - looked kinda fun.

blueski, Monday, 25 June 2007 11:57 (fourteen years ago) link

three months pass...

Seeing them for the first time in Boston tomorrow night. Anyone catch their tour?

Jazzbo, Wednesday, 10 October 2007 18:03 (thirteen years ago) link

Looks like Dub Trio is opening again, cool.

Jordan, Wednesday, 10 October 2007 18:07 (thirteen years ago) link

Absolute fuckin' mayhem.

Describes them well. Their show during Bumbershoot last month just got more and more and more energetic, frenetic, and raucous as the night spun out. Great fun

Jaq, Wednesday, 10 October 2007 18:28 (thirteen years ago) link

Yes, they were amazing last night. Crazy bunch of motherfuckers — the intensity never let up.
One woman in the band reminded me of the dancer in "Gumnaam," the 1965 Bollywood film featured in a clip on the "Ghost World" DVD.

Jazzbo, Friday, 12 October 2007 13:09 (thirteen years ago) link

ahhhhhh i'm seeing them tonight and i can't wait!! i saw them in NYC five years ago, having never even heard of them before, and was totally blown away. absolutely insane. yesssss.

</overexcited and caffeinated>

Emily Bjurnhjam, Saturday, 13 October 2007 14:22 (thirteen years ago) link

I'm conflicted ... I finally went to one of the Hutz-Djed things. He somehow managed to be the worst DJ I've ever seen (switching from CD to CD, playing Gogol Bordello CDs almost the whole way through, and, by the end of the night, actually fast-forwarding through tracks to get to parts he liked), yet the crowd energy was great and everyone had a fucking blast.

Jamesy, Monday, 15 October 2007 04:02 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

do i wanna go see gogol bordello on the 8th? little help please...

Upt0eleven, Friday, 30 November 2007 14:55 (thirteen years ago) link

Yes you do.

The Reverend, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 14:33 (thirteen years ago) link

Oh yes, you do. They're insane.

Jazzbo, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 15:04 (thirteen years ago) link

thirteen years pass...

I recently came across xgau's high praise for this band (e.g., http://www.robertchristgau.com/get_album.php?id=13807). I recall seeing them on a festival stage circa 2009 and thinking they were nuts. Listening to Gypsy Punks now for the first time, and I'm having a very hard time taking this seriously. It sounds like Borat fronting the Clash?

Someone help me. C or D?

Indexed, Thursday, 15 July 2021 15:06 (two weeks ago) link

Here's what I wrote about it when it came out:

In the mid-1980s, two artists on the outskirts of pop provided inspiration for a whole legion of subsequent bands. Tom Waits, melding Kurt Weill and Captain Beefheart with his beatnik persona, uncovered ways to make acoustic and undistorted instruments as abrasive as any other noisemakers. And Shane McGowan, a tagalong from the original London punk scene, showed that the sloppy passion of 1977 could revitalize Celtic folk.

In their wake, there has been a steady flow of folk-dash-punk approaches to various traditions. These almost never work. Part of the problem is that most folk genres are built on a path of apprenticeship and mastery. Instruments like the violin and accordion are resistant to amateurism. Also, many of these musical forms get their propulsion from the off beat, and reducing their lilt to a 4/4 backbeat is like dropping a cannonball on a soufflé. These artists also underestimate Waits and McGowan; as two of the most literary of lyricists, their writing consistently carries songs through cornball musical ideas.

So what to make of Gogol Bordello? If they were merely overblown, like the unlistenable Irish-punk of tour mates Flogging Molly, there wouldn't be much to say. But their chosen formula, Eastern European music dragged through Rock, occasionally works. Gypsy music has always adapted and invigorated local styles, and only stands a few steps removed from rock. It's in the Polka that fed Texas Swing, in Django Reinhardt's popularization of the electric guitar, and in the Yiddish theatre that lead to Tin Pan Alley. And all those streamed into Rock. Fifteen years ago, the Les Negress Vertes did a convincing job of playing "gypsy punk." So at least one band has been successful in this territory, which is more than can be said for ska-punk.

And Gogol Bordello has come up with some bright lyrics. Their last record included this on the jacket:

And in this kind of town / The music is just background for dining
And in this kind of town / The dining is just background for biting

But the second line didn't make it into the recorded version. Instead there are some grunts to make way for the next round of vamping. And therein lies Gogol Bordello's problem. There are hints that leader Eugene Hutz has some depth, but his Iggy-with-a-moustache posturing deflates the promise. On Gypsy Punks, "Think Globally, Fuck Locally" launches with strumming that recalls Elvis' eccentric guitar bashing at the start of "Blue Moon of Kentucky." Halfway through there's a great percussion break hammered out on a paint bucket. But between all that, there's yet another fiddle rave-up and variations on the moronic catchphrase of the title.

Hutz keeps declaring his credentials as a provocateur and a desperate immigrant; one is inclined to disbelieve him on both counts. The lyrics here talk repeatedly of what the band is (gypsies…who play punk!) and what sort of revolution it's gonna bring. They never get around to constructing a complete song; the musical juxtapositions are just as rhetorical. One could defend the Gogols as essentially a party band. But the grand proclamations and attempts at anthems deflate that theory. Hutz want to midwife some sort of mongrel genre, but can't get beyond his mission statement.

Their previous work was dragged down by glossy world music production. Here they get the Steve Albini treatment, and it's a step backwards. Everything is sharp and mechanical and precise. Once again, the sound doesn't match the earthy ambitions. Strangely, the most convincing parts are the reggae and dub excursions. They don't fit the agenda, and they certainly don't fit Albini's safety zone, and they're kinda cool in their ridiculousness. But then reggae is one of those traditions that hit the off beat, and the accordion is a good stand-in for Agustus Pablo's melodica.

There is nothing inherently wrong with being a faker; certainly Waits and McGowan engage in a certain amount of fakery. The Gypsy cabarets that tour Slavic communities are series of schtick, just like old American vaudeville. Posing isn't the problem. I suspect the cabaret artists working under Sovietism slipped in coded political commentary in ways that were far more inspirational. I suspect that Hutz views himself as fitting into rock like Andre Codrescu fits into NPR; dropping exquisite corpses of East European fatalism on the nicey-nice world of whitebread multiculturalism. But he comes across more like one of the wild and crazy Czech buffoons of the old Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd routine. He's looking for a quick three-way with some fine looking musical styles. It's an offer easy to refuse.

Citole Country (bendy), Thursday, 15 July 2021 16:43 (two weeks ago) link

otm, great piece, bendy.

i love balkan brass, punk, eastern folk sounds, etc, but always found their schtick very lame and corny, one of those bands that sounds way better on paper than on record. not surprised xgau rides for them, they seem to check a lot of his boxes. every time i hear them i always expect to hear a smug NPR host break in: "a rock band with... accordions?? meet some self-described 'gypsy punks', right after this break!"

nobody like my rap (One Eye Open), Thursday, 15 July 2021 17:06 (two weeks ago) link

i picked up the J.U.F. (GB vs Tamir Muskat as per the beginning of the thread) album on cd a few months ago which combines the band with DJ cuts and dub.
cant listen to the album all way through, but love the odd track dropped into a beer-n-wine session.

mark e, Thursday, 15 July 2021 17:55 (two weeks ago) link

Love it, bendy!

Indexed, Thursday, 15 July 2021 21:11 (two weeks ago) link

So at least one band has been successful in this territory, which is more than can be said for ska-punk.

http://i.kym-cdn.com/entries/icons/mobile/000/025/090/tumblr_inline_p1brmcd9Dk1rr08jv_500.jpg

Loud guitars shit all over "Bette Davis Eyes" (NYCNative), Thursday, 15 July 2021 23:12 (two weeks ago) link

I assumed this bump was about the band being added to the #metoo list, which would not surprise me one iota

sleeve, Thursday, 15 July 2021 23:32 (two weeks ago) link

This was one of the most fun live shows I ever saw (it ended when the venue cut the power on them, because the crowd surfing devolved into them passing the stage monitors around in the audience). but I've never even considered listening to their studio output.

enochroot, Friday, 16 July 2021 01:18 (two weeks ago) link

The live reputation is what drew me to explore this band, but never did see a show. Did see a Roma touring troupe in 1993 at in a high school auditorium in a neighborhood with a lot of Russian immigrants and it was amazing.

Citole Country (bendy), Friday, 16 July 2021 14:06 (two weeks ago) link


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