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Geoff Berner

Klezmer Mongrels

(Jericho Beach; US: 1 Nov 2008; UK: 24 Oct 2008; Canada release date: 27 Jan 2009)

Vancouver bad boy Geoff Berner’s latest album is not a spectacular achievement in the field of music. Basically all of the music on Klezmer Mongrels is played by an accordion, violin, and what sounds like a djembe with a couple symbols. It isn’t supremely recorded and has absolutely no chance for mass appeal whatsoever, but, come hell or vampire weekend, I like this album. It’s just as fun and drunk as Gogol Bordello, yet it’s more coherent and not as loud. To get this album is to buy Geoff’s quirky personality and the vibe he’s going for, not necessarily the musicianship and fidelity of the recording. This is the campfire jam session style of klezmer punk.


Most songs mention booze and/or girls, with the possible exception of “No Tobacco” (an essential song that begs the world to not roll their joints with tobacco lest they sully the true taste and experience of BC bud). The lyrics are perfect for the form, delivering everything good, honest folk music should. They’re blunt and boozy, with a hint of “fuck this” and anything goes. Of course, it is a little confusing to hear Berner talk about trying to breed out the bad half of German culture in “Half German Girlfriend”, not the only time the subject is broached on the record, but it’s easy to live with considering its context.  Though I’ll never see the spectacular cover art by Kelly Haigh (who also did a great Carolyn Mark album) sail up the Billboard charts, it will never leave my collection. Here’s mud in your eye.

Rating:

Compelled to words by music since 2004, Ranta's words have appeared in such esteemed publications as Exclaim!, Tiny Mix Tapes, CBC Music, and PopMatters. He also regularly votes for the Polaris Music Prize, Village Voice Pazz & Jop, Juno Awards, and in all local, provincial, and federal elections. Based in East Vancouver, he's been known to a rave and/or rant, cat whisper, play basketball, pessimistically root for the Canucks, and read far too many comment sections. He graduated with distinction from SFU in 2012, with a bachelor's degree in music.


Media
Geoff Berner - Half German Girlfriend (Live)
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By Christopher Cwynar
23 Apr 2007
Vancouver's favorite accordion slinger draws on his ancestral roots to produce an album of irreverent klezmer punk wedding music.
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