Don’t let frontman Eugene Hütz’s outrageous mustache fool you; this is no joke. While it’s true that Gogol Bordello’s balls-to-the-wall hybrid of punk and Romani music, with its broken-English verses of street philosophy, has always threatened to come off a bit gimmicky, Pura Vida Conspiracy is as earnest as can be. Their sixth full-length album provides both a fevered, oft-shouted treatise on human potential and an effortless blend of styles from around the world.
“Borders are scars on face of the planet,” sings Hütz on anthemic opener “We Rise Again,” simultaneously introducing his central philosophy and his musical MO. The band crosses stylistic borders with abandon throughout the album, injecting their Gypsy punk with norteño swagger (“Malandrino”), gospel-tinged backing vocals (“Amen”), and even nu-prog sudden shifts and stoner-rock heavy riffs (“We Shall Sail”). The arrangements teem with purposeful nuance; this time around, the caravan isn’t always charging ahead at full speed.
Stylistic breadth and good old-fashioned passion make this a worthy milestone in Gogol Bordello’s evolution. While nothing the band ever records to tape can quite match the unhinged energy of their live performances, Pura Vida Conspiracy shows they know how to make an album.
– Kevin Allen