Gogol Bordello

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Solidaritine Review

by Thom Jurek

It's been five years since gypsy punk heroes Gogol Bordello released Seekers and Finders, their last studio album. In the interim, the world has endured natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic that killed millions, the U.S. Army's departure from Afghanistan, and the Russian invasion and continued occupation of Ukraine -- homeland of the band's singer, songwriter, and frontman Eugene Hütz. Though the 13 songs on Solidaritine were composed before the invasion, Gogol Bordello offer a poignant, raucous response through them. The set was produced by Lower East Side underground icon Walter Schreifels. Hütz and Russian violinist Sergey Ryabtsev -- the group's only original members -- are appended by Ecuadorian vocalist/percussionist Pedro Erazo-Segovia, Russian-born guitarist Boris Pelekh, French bassist Gill Alexandre, and North American vocalist Ashley Tobias and drummer Korey Kingston Horn. (The record hosts several guests too.)

Although there are many different folk styles here, all are given utterance through punk and post-punk. Opener "Shot of Solidaritine" commences as a singalong but quickly erupts into an explosive punk anthem celebrating the collective strength of humanity with chanted choruses, blazing guitars, and galloping snares. Hütz's snarling growl is framed by sweeping violin. Fugazi's "Blueprint" is re-envisioned as a loose, ska-inflected tune that channels the Pogues while staggering dangerously close to polka. "The Era of the End of Eras" offers a shambolic meld of acoustic and electric guitars, furious violin, and drums in a duet by Hütz and Bad Brains' frontman H.R. The clattering punk shuffle/gutter Americana in "I'm Coming Out" is an indictment of social media, "zombie lifestyle magazines," and the politicization of everyday life. "The Great Hunt of Idiot Savant" weds drunken garage punk and blasting Romani dance music in celebrating love's possibilities. "Take Only What You Can Carry" is the set's highlight. Though not written directly in response to the Ukrainian conflict, Hütz and Tobias deliver an anthemic duet offering emotional support to those displaced by war, famine, natural disaster, etc. amid careening violin, power chords, detuned piano, and crashing drums. The reprised version of "Forces of Victory" (originally on 2007's Super Taranta! album) was included in direct response to the invasion of Ukraine. Following fleet guitar arpeggios in the intro, Ryabtsev's violin leads the band into a maelstrom of hardcore punk. With assistance from Ukrainian poet and novelist Serhiy Zhadan and electro-folk band KAZKA, Hütz recalls historic victories over fascist dictatorships. "Fire on Ice Floe" combines surf and spiky reggae, while closer "Huckleberry Generation" melds garage rock, screaming punk, and gypsy melody with American literary myth, the tragedy of Chernobyl, and the undying spirit of revolt among the working class and dispossessed. While not quite as intense and transformative as a Gogol Bordello live show, Solidaritine is close. Its canny songwriting and sophisticated musicianship combined with Schreifels' raw production make this album one of the band's finest to date.

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