Gogol Bordello, 'Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike' (SideOneDummy)

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Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike
Critical Mass
Label: Sideonedummy

by Keith Harris

Boring old black-white miscegenation is so 20th century -- to really freak out tight-ass bigots in the '00s, somebody's gotta take the multiethnic gene-pool reconstruction worldwide. Mustachioed Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hutz is just the mutt to do it, and your daughter could one day be the honey he does it with. The Ukraine-born New Yorker is so smooth with the slogans -- "Think Locally, Fuck Globally" is indeed a bumper sticker whose time has come -- that even his drunken lechery feels politically astute.

"Cultural revolution's just begun," Hutz announces as he swoops into Nebraska to liberate the corn-fed teen on "Sally." And with violin riffs scratching alongside electric guitars and accordions, tumbling into a cacophony while racing to keep pace with the drums, his Gypsy-punk comrades respond: Duh.

With its paired chords landing deliberately on the upbeat, Eastern European two-stepping lends itself to Gogol Bordello's occasional reggae and dub fusions. In fact, Gypsy music -- simple yet amorphous, absorbent rather than assimilating -- is the ideal medium for sentiments like "Of course there is no 'us' and 'them,' but 'them,' they do not think the same," and other lines that flaunt the rootless cosmopolitanism that has always unsettled social conservatives. But this is also urban music; its sounds in giddy collision rather than thoughtful collaboration, its melodies in constant adjustment to the beat pounding through your neighbor's wall and the radio blare from down the block.

As Hutz swaggers, "I am a foreigner / And I'm walking through your streets," his band exudes a mingled whiff of hot-dog-cart steam and taxi exhaust crowd sweat. It's the vibrant stench of the one place nomadic sophisticates can call home -- the city that terrifies middle-American know-nothings and Islamofascists alike. At long last, here's New York punk that genuinely stinks of New York.

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