An on-stage performance with Madonna at Live Earth, an appearance in Everything Is Illuminated, 2010’s Rick Rubin-produced Trans-Continental Hustle – Gogol Bordello’s riotous brand of gypsy folk-punk has regularly threatened to break out into the mainstream. But straddling that fine line between genius and preposterous a little too closely, the New York-based anarchists still remain very much a cult concern.
Maybe realizing that they might need to soften their approach to get their revolutionary message across, the band’s sixth studio effort, Pura Vida Conspiracy, also offers several uncharacteristic moments of introspection amongst all the usual call-to-arms. Here’s a look at five sets of lyrics where maverick frontman Eugene Hutz deviates from his normal rambunctious manifesto.
The accordion and flamenco guitar immediately establishes that Hutz is more concerned with affairs of the heart than putting the world to rights. But “I Just Realized” is more of a conflicting stalker anthem than a straight-forward love song as he helplessly tries to find a way out of his obsession for a girl who may be spurning his advances for purely anti-Russian reasons, prompting an impression that is far more Ali G than Borat: [LISTEN]
When a body is burning with fever/Of the voodoo force/What is it that’s really burning/Parts of you of course/Is it because I am Russian?/Is it because you are not?
A deceptively sentimental voyage of rediscovery, the high-octane punk of “Lost Innocent World” sees Hutz return to the Ukrainian town he fled with his family as a youngster in order to escape the fallout from the Chernobyl disaster. Reminiscing about the moment he first picked up his instrument of choice, it’s clear that there are happier memories there. But his subsequent cries for his old friends also suggests he’s carrying around a huge sense of guilt for being one of the few fortunate enough to leave: [LISTEN]
First I asked the sailor to sneak me aboard/Bring me place my father showed me my first guitar chord/Place where lie of second thought cannot survive/Place where all my friends are still alive
Featuring the most infectious fiddle riff on the entire record and a typically mangled English spin on the ‘needle in a haystack’ phrase, the foot-stomping folk of “Amen” allows Hutz to state his belief in both fate and reincarnation as he comes to the conclusion that no matter how hard he and his regular dancing partner try to resist their mad love, circumstances will always throw them together - whether it’s in this life or the next: [LISTEN]
Someone told me, “Every lifetime/We meet same circle of souls/To say thank you or to say sorry/And once again exchange our roles”
Proof that Hutz can be just as much of a lover as he is a freedom fighter, the gently-swaying Balkan folk of “Hieroglyph” also shows that his self-belief knows no bounds as he describes himself as a warrior with the ability to turn into a dove and boasts about his apparent ability to unite the sky and earth. Although to be fair, he does just about stop short of comparing himself to a Greek god: [LISTEN]
Passion can be quiet, it can be still/Waiting to confront of something real/Against the lows I’m still here/I’m always with you, I’m always near/Sky and earth, united by me/I’m unity, I’m gravity
Destroying the myth of leprechauns and pots of gold, Hutz claims that the other side of the rainbow is much more monochrome than its front-facing seven colours on a reggae-tinged alternative fairytale which also throws in an Italian princess, a reminder to pay it forward and a slightly schmaltzy journey of self-discovery that sees his hero realise that the path to freedom isn’t on a yellow brick road but inside his very own soul: [LISTEN]
When your enemy gets cruel/Let ‘em down, don’t break him down/And if you hear of something good/Don’t hold it back, pass it around