No Smoking's debut as a "world" band reintroduces filmmaker Emir Kusturica -- who had a brief stint as the bass player of Zabranjeno Pusenje (Yugoslavian for No Smoking) in the mid-'80s -- to the group. Now one of the band's guitarists, he contributes sparingly toward songwriting and arranging. This is still the band of lead singer Dr. Nelle Karajlic, whose acerbic vocals and commanding presence dictate the group's course. But colorful instruments like balalaika, tuba, accordion, trumpet, and accordion contribute significantly as well. The term "Unza Unza" describes the hybrid of music found on this record. The Balkans are a centrally located region surrounded by Turkish, European gypsy, Greek, Russian, Middle Eastern, and Italian music. German and Spanish music is also welcome into this interwoven musical fabric that cites the local music of Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Albania, Bosnia, and Bulgaria as its foundation. The '70s punk sound that was No Smoking's initial influence is all but abandoned here, although Karajlic still retains some of his snarling and loathsome attitude. Combine that with the eclecticism of groups like Reptile Palace Orchestra and Brave Combo and the offbeat tendencies of mid-'80s Tom Waits, and perhaps a rough portrait of this group can be painted. This is an incredibly unique album that is essential listening for fans of alternative world music.
Unza Unza Time Review
by Dave Sleger