Vancouver BC-based songwriter, singer, accordion player, and political activist Geoff Berner is one of a new generation of Jewish musicians intent on bringing new influences to klezmer music. With the help of producer SoCalled (Josh Dolgin), Berner has made an album that combines klezmer with the rhythms of hip-hop, punk, traditional Yiddish songs, Eastern European Jewish and gypsy beats, and even a bit of electronica. Berner got his start in the punk band Terror of Tiny Town. After becoming interested in klezmer, he traveled to Romania to study with the surviving masters of the style. He released three well-regarded, more traditional klezmer records before teaming up with SoCalled in an attempt to demolish conceptions of what a modern klezmer record might sound like. Berner's lyrics are known for their incendiary and thought-provoking nature, and the tunes on Victory Party are as inflammatory as anything he's ever written. "The Victory Party" blends klezmer with a modified Bo Diddley beat played by drummer Wayne Adams. It tells the story of an uncertain victory. Berner's acidic vocal details the carnage outside the tavern where the party is held -- rotting corpses, the ruins of an orphanage -- to remind us of the cost of any violent triumph. The track devolves into a cacophony of clarinets, pianos, fiddles, and aggressive drumbeats. "I Kind of Hate Songs with Ambiguous Lyrics" is a brief blast of accordion and fiddle-driven klezmer/punk that puts down songwriters concerned with artistic arguments in a time when people are dying on the streets fighting for their rights. A bubbling klezmer clarinet opens "Laughing Jackie the Pimp" sounds like a children's song with its sprightly melody and Berner's cheery vocal, but by the end of the song, the pimp's almost been beaten to death by the police. "Daloy Polizei" is based on a traditional melody. It's a rollicking klezmer tune that addresses police brutality and includes a snappy chorus of "Fuck the police." "Oh My Golem," the one electronica number, rides a track that brings to mind Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" to tell the story of the magical creature created by Rabbinical magic to protect Jews from anti-Semitic attacks. Brener's Golem, like the Golems of old, goes berserk in its mission of righting wrongs. Berner delivers the tune with his usual over-the-top energy.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet