Trans-Continental Hustle, Gogol Bordello's fifth studio album, first on a major label, and first with producer/guru extraordinaire Rick Rubin, is one that you really want to love. It has everything about it that Gogol Bordello fans demand: rollicking punk and fiddle-fueled verses and rousing, easy to chant choruses. Most of all, it has plenty of Eugene Hütz, the impassioned, gravel- and vodka-voiced singer who has nearly single-handedly -- with his playful take on English grammar and intermittent bursts of other languages, penchant for chanting, and endlessly inspiring and exhausting live performances -- brought various Gypsy cultures from the fringe to something celebrated (and performed) by Madonna, without ever seeming like he was selling out or doing anything that wasn't really, really cool. Culturally, musicologically, socially, politically, and even literarily, there's much to say about it. Strictly musically, however, there's something missing here -- something that's hard to place, but something that separates Trans-Continental Hustle from Gypsy Punks and Super Taranta! Hütz is still an endlessly fascinating frontman who deserves all the attention he gets and more, and he knows how to turn any hook into a sweat-drenched, beer-soaked anthem, but inevitably, as it is with many bands, his songs begin to resemble one another. Lines are reused and reappropriated in the creation of an aesthetic, in the process risking a diminution of power through the repetition. Hütz, assuredly aware of this, attempts to combat it by adding new elements: Brazil's fervo is incorporated in "In the Meantime in Pernambuco," dub pops up again in "Immigraniada (We Comin' Rougher)," and even something that approaches an Eastern European pop love song is found in "Rebellious Love," one of the few bad songs Hütz has ever written. The core of Gogol Bordello, however, is the rambunctious Gypsy punk they're known for, and it's what doesn't quite measure up here. There's still plenty of energy and hooky lines and growling, driving verses (one can certainly credit Rubin for changing nothing), but sadly, there's nothing that grabs you and sticks with you the way that "Immigrant Punk," "American Wedding," "Sally," or "Start Wearing Purple" did, and still do. The songs on Trans-Continental Hustle, instead, sound more pieced together from previous efforts rather than from new thoughts, and suffer from a lack of distinct identity. There's plenty good here, that's undeniable, but the album lacks the spark to push it forward and place it at the top.
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AllMusic Review by Marisa Brown