Gogol Bordello - Pura Vida Conspiracy

A charming and invigorating release of gypsy-folk rhythms, punk spirit, positive philosophy and muddled syntax.

Label: ATO Records/Casa Gogol Records

Rating: 7

It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since Gogol Bordello briefly nudged the mainstream with the pleasing lunacy of ‘Start Wearing Purple’, but in case you thought the gypsy-punk outfit were a one-trick pony, think again. With ‘Pura Vida Conspiracy’ the band, led by the scarily exuberant Eugene Hutz, release their sixth studio album and it’s a charming and invigorating release of gypsy-folk rhythms, punk spirit, positive philosophy and muddled syntax.

With the album’s title (and theme) deriving from a Spanish slang phrase for ‘pure life’, Gogol Bordello come across as a motley, multi-ethnic pirate crew sailing to all corners of the globe, bringing their riotous way of life to all who’ll listen, with the mad-eyed Hutz steering the ship. Pieced together in the melting pot of New York, with Hutz hailing from the Ukraine, other members of diverse origins and the new record recorded in El Paso, Texas there’s a wide array of musical and cultural influences to wonder at, like a treasure chest that’s been plundered from the deep. Such as ‘Malandrino’, a rose-tinted ode to Brazil’s ‘Malandro’ – part loveable scamp, part scurrilous thug – sees Hutz transformed into the protagonist of the tale, as the pitch builds from a gentle waltz to a fiesta of ebullient trumpets and crash-bash drumming, like an out-of-control whirling dervish. Or the Spanish feel of the accordion- and guitar-dominated ‘I Just Realised’ and comes across as a candlelit seduction (likewise with the faster, hip-rolling salsa vibe of ‘Amen’). And perhaps it’s just the swaying rhythm and fiddle-playing but even ‘Name Your Ship’, possesses the spirit of a drunken Irish sea shanty.

The focus isn’t all on international waters and the ‘Bordello’s whole Eastern-European gypsy-punk schtick for which they’re know makes a strong showing as well; ‘Rainbow’ is a foot-stomping folk-rocker, and ‘Gypsy Auto-Pilot’ is cut from a similar cloth, with the delightful inclusion of Hutz laughing maniacally “Ha ha ha ha ha ha!” partway through. But going back to the beginning, it’s album-opener ‘We Rise Again’ that stands out from the crowd. Setting the scene for the rest of the record, it’s a perfect storm of twitchy punk drums and relentless flurries of accordion and violin, with a massive dose of defiance: ‘With a fistful of heart and a radical future… wapah! We rise again’. Not only serving as Hutz’s belief in the limitlessness of human potential, but a mission statement the band strive to emulate with all they’ve got.

This is no departure for Gogol Bordello in terms of sound or subject, and does pretty much what you’d expect. It revels in its eclecticism, so if you didn’t like the band before you won’t like them now. But if you enjoy music that’s fun and rousing and are curious about other musical traditions – even if they are all jumbled up together – then ‘Pura Vida Conspiracy’ makes for a joyful, life-affirming experience.