Three years after Gogol Bordello issued Trans-Continental Hustle, they deliver Pure Vida Conspiracy, an album that, while draped in their trademark Gypsy punk sound, pushes hard at the boundaries of their already abundant blend of Eastern European and Celtic folk, rock & roll, and dubby reggae traditions. All but one track on this set were recorded in the border town of El Paso, Texas by producer/engineer Andrew Scheps. The sounds from that complex place have woven themselves inextricably into the album's songs -- though the sweaty, drunken careening that lies at the heart of their party remains. While acoustic folk and funk introduce opening anthem "We Rise Again" via acoustic guitars, fiddle, and a group-chanted intro, when electric guitars, accordion, and drums kick in and frontman Eugene Hütz commences singing in English and Spanish, country (as in country & western), punk rock, and Mexican norteño underscore his urgent declaration: "Borders are scars on the face of the planet." "Malandrino" commences as a two-step country song but quickly evolves to include Tex-Mex, mariachi (complete with horns), and stomping polka. The poignant "Lost Innocent World" weds bust-up Gypsy punk to spaghetti Western country with fiery violins, a furious bassline, and blasting guitars as the inexhaustible Hütz rails about the high price of his nomadic life. "It Is the Way You Name Your Ship," one of the set's best tracks, is a Gypsy sea shanty communicated through ragged Celtic rock featuring wonderful interplay between accordion, acoustic and electric guitars, and violin, all supported by a basic bassline, rumbling kick drum, and snare. "The Other Side of Rainbow" uses Mexican banda -- the bassline playing the part of the tuba -- in a popping two-step that features a killer accordion break, which ushers in a Celtic shift with raging guitars and the violin playing the part of a pennywhistle. Another winner is the startling "I Just Realized," which seamlessly melds breezy modern samba to Gypsy folk. "Hieroglyph" is hybrid Ukrainian folk played to a reggae rhythm that twists and turns through various dynamics and ratchets up the intensity gradually. "John the Conqueror (Truth Is Always the Same)" is a country punk anthem with a funky backdrop in the bridge clearly inspired by Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," but its narrative contains no cheap jokes and its musical makeup is ever more complex and commanding. Closer "We Shall Sail" is a languid heartfelt acoustic waltz; it's followed by an extended silence broken by a furious rendition of a new crowd favorite, the spiky, thrashing, metal jam "Jealous Sister." Pure Vida Conspiracy contains all the elements that make Gogol Bordello unique, but they're restless. With their ever-expanding arsenal of masterfully crafted musical traditions, they prove once more to refuse to be anything less than what they are: one of the most explorative and inexhaustibly creative bands on the planet.
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Review by Thom Jurek