ogol Bordello is by now pretty well-known as the group behind the best live show on planet Earth. They’ve set off a Balkan boom that’s won Devotchka an Oscar nom, Beirut the reviews Rufus Wainwright used to get, and themselves a Live Earth cameo with none other than the Madge herself (on “La Isla Bonita,” too!!). And following their 2005 breakthrough Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike, Ukranian émigré Eugene Hütz has proven there is no task too American for conquest: bandleader, actor, Bulgarian restaurant DJ, mustache architect, even MC, rapping about the literal “Balkanization of Americanization,” with his side project J.U.F.
But you’d be a fool to underestimate these concert kings’ studio output; more streamlined than any other Bordello release, Super Taranta! takes the melting pot that J.U.F. and Gypsy Punks laid out and mixes the contents into an alloy, dispensing with the little reggae and rap asides for one nonstop battering ram. Ironically titled starter “Ultimate,” opens the album with a strange credo: “If we are here not to do / what you and I want to do / And go forever crazy with it / Why the hell are we even here / Gaaaah!” A mini-storm of fiddling and crunching breaks down to one of Hutz’s spare, acoustic introductions that’s usually reserved for a breather, and with his best sneer, he articulates the delusions of warring America in one perfect little couplet. “There were never any good old days / They are today / They are tomorrow,” he sings, slapping anyone in the back of the head who lies about missing “family values” when they really mean “stop the gay agenda.” Far more intelligent than the real-life Borat some ignorami peg him as, he knows enough about rock and roll to let the “character” drive.
Maybe I was the only fan expecting a London Calling off the bat, but this is more like their Give ‘em Enough Rope, a perfectly fine extension of that first energy burst, one that deserved to be milked a bit. That’s no exaggeration; people want these guys to be the Pogues, the pied pipers of East European pride, but Rum, Sodomy & The Lash never changed anything except to solidify U2’s Irish-born solitude on 1980s critic’s polls. These guys were born to rip like the Clash, who they even recall in their lightest moments. The bounciest track here should’ve been titled “Tribal Connection (In Hammersmith Palais).” The rest is all teeth and razors, even beefing up a remake of the formerly showboating “My Strange Uncles From Abroad,” with impossibly steroidal strings (that old guy could whup Andrew Bird in a bow—not bo—fencing match).
The biggest surprise is how much Hütz has downplayed the sloganeering of past efforts. No “Dogs were barking! Dun dun!” or “Not! A! Crime!” here; if anything’s close, it’s “I’m a wonderlust king [sic] / I stay on the run / Let me out / Let me be young,” or the traditional Italian folk melody appropriated for “Harem in Tuscany,” now set to a waterfall of nonsensical chanting: “Taranta taranta super taranta / Harem in Tuscany!” As you probably guessed by counting the syllables, none of those will blend in crowd unison like the up-then-down of “Immigrant-immigrant-immigrant punk!” but the familiar swordplay of violin and accordion over industrial-pulse disco should go down easy as ever. Here the most defiant gesture is, “I don’t read the bible (Bible!),” and that sentiment’s like, the first page in the punk manual. Of course, a smart, post-9/11 citizen of New York like Hütz knows that it takes on new meaning in these times, a.k.a. “I survived Chernobyl! You can’t scare me with your Anglo bullshit!” Who would dare deny this guy a “La Isla Bonita” guest spot?
Reviewed by: Dan Weiss
Reviewed on: 2007-07-18