Gogol Bordello's army of immigrants
by Seth Combs
The New York Times called them, "Iggy Pop meets Kafka."
Mojo proposed "New York punk gypsy cabaret."
Things didn't get any clearer when frontman Eugene Hütz was asked in a documentary to describe his band, Gogol Bordello.
"An orchestra of fucking immigrants who are jamming in A-minor."
Simple and to the point is a good way to describe Hütz. Blame some of his offensive brevity on the language barrier-he's a Ukranian who, after fleeing Kiev after Chernobyl, bounced from country to country before finally landing in the Big Apple.
But that's not it.
If you lead a band that included musicians from Russia, Israel, Kazakhstan and Florida, you might be a little curt, too. It's forgivable because this U.N. juggernaut plays a forceful and anfractuous blend of punk rock and gypsy music, with Hütz sounding like an Eastern European Jello Biafra. That, in a live setting, might make your head blow off.
Hütz sees Gogol as an extension of New York-an appendage of the band's adopted home. And he believes any good band would think similarly.
"A real band is always a small army," he says. "The key is that nobody is so fucking proud that he can't stand behind another. Once you're free of this patriotic notion, a whole scale of new values opens up."
This coming from the guy who once described The Strokes as the twin brother of Britney Spears.
Gogol Bordello's new album, Gogol Bordello vs. Tamir Muskat, isn't a new album proper, but rather an album of unreleased, remixed tracks recorded under the pseudonym J.U.F. (Jewish-Ukrainishe Freundschaft). Hütz says the idea originated from his DJ gig at Bulgarian Bar in Brooklyn, where he found himself spinning Gogol's songs over different beats.
"We were lacking tracks that we wanted to spin, so we decided just to make them-Gogol Bordello remixed by ourselves," he says.
The band just finished recording a new album with producer Steve Albini, who Hütz says is the "master of live sound." This may be true in some circles, but Albini's also the guy who brought us gems like Bush's Razorblade Suitcase and Page/Plant's Walking Into Clarksdale.
But Hütz maintains, "There will never be any shortcomings on our part. I'm totally excited to throw out a new bundle of fiery wood."
To grasp the antinomian nature of the band, one need only scan the proposed titles for the next album: Think Locally, Fuck Globally. Alcoholimpics. My Strange Uncle From Abroad.
A bit all over the map, aren't they?
Gogol Bordello plays with the ScotchGreens and Mr. and Mrs. Tribute to Ugliness at The Casbah, 9 p.m. on Oct. 23. $12-$14. 619-232-HELL.