Gypsy punks Gogol Bordello emerged from the depths of the Balkans (ok so it was Lower East Side of Manhattan but that doesn’t sound so romantic) a good few years ago.
We’ve never taken to their raucous brand of punk: it’s good fun and brilliant at a festival, but not something you’d sit and listen to. Not least because singer Eugene Hütz has a voice that’s only on nodding terms with actual singing, powerful as it is.
His mum knows him as Yevheniy Aleksandrovich Nikolayev-Simonov; why he shortened it we can’t imagine. His family fled to the US after hearing of the Chernobyl meltdown.
However, after listening to this the requisite dozen or so times for review purposes, Gogol Bordello have won us round. It’s true that it’s still raucous gypsy punk that’s played loud and fast, and would only reference Sübtlety if it was a town in the Ukraine, but Hütz is a clever songwriter.
Opener Did It All is really good, a belting anarchic start to the album. Walking On Burning Coal is slower, and a better song, with a soaring violin-backed chorus.
There are some slower songs, too: the title track features fellow Russian Regina Spektor adding vocals; her voice and Hütz’s go together well.
Familiar Bonfireball is also good, starting slowly and building catchily (with some rocket-powered work on the kick drum from Alfredo Ortiz).
Other tracks, such as Break Into Your Higher Self, are a bit Bordello-by-numbers but on others, such as Saboteur Blues and Love Gangsters, the raucousness is (comparatively) dialled back a bit. More melodic, lots of energy; should be a winner.