Trans-Continental Hustle: Gogol Bordello Album Review

Eugene Hütz once rode a drum from Ukraine to Vermont. True story.

If you’ve recently had the inexplicable urge to listen to some hardcore gypsy-rock, look no further than Gogol Bordello’s new album, Trans-Continental Hustle. The April 2010 release will be all you need to satisfy your cravings for clashing tambourines, slamming drums, and grinding accordions. Listening to TCH, it’s easy to hear seven or eight different instruments on a single track, giving the impression that Gogol Bordello is a jolly set of Slavic minstrels travelling the land, playing careening melodies for peasant and royalty alike. In fact, this isn’t far from reality.

Trans-Continental Hustle is Gogol Bordello’s first full studio album since 2007’s “Super Tranta!” and continues their legacy as America’s foremost gypsy rockers. In keeping with this identity, TCH emphasizes issues concerning the Roma (gypsy) people. Lyrics on tracks like “Immigraniada” highlight the mistreatment and hypocrisy suffered by the Roma, of which the group’s frontman, Eugene Hütz, is a proud member. The words fit seamlessly with the instrumental pieces which sound genuine enough to lead me to believe it was a DMB jam session… if DMB hailed from the Ukraine, that is.

While Gogol Bordello can certainly jam, they are also more than capable of pulling back and drawing a heartfelt ballad from their eclectic assortment of instruments. “Sun Is On My Side” eases in as a sonorific acoustic feature before mixing in some rhythmic contributions from the rest of the group. The temporary peace doesn’t last long though as “Rebellious Love” comes in to remind the listener that dozing off is not an option. A blitzkrieg of percussion, electric guitar, tambourine, violin and crusty, accent-laden vocals deliver this message in no unclear terms. This is how most of the album goes.

Hütz’s voice is one of the defining qualities of TCH and Gogol Bordello on the whole. Delivering simple yet effective lyrics in the heaviest Eastern European accent you’ve ever heard, Hütz pulls the listener into the music and sends them on a crazy-ass musical rollercoaster. Skeptics of Hütz’s authenticity can put their worries at ease in knowing that he’s the real McCoy. Born in Ukraine, Hütz travelled a long road to the United States with his family following their displacement after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and an ensuing seven year trek through various nations and refugee camps in Europe. Hütz settled in the US in 1991 and it was in New York in 1999 that Gogol Bordello was formed. Eleven years later, the group released TCH.

– Wonderboy