Gino Yevdjevich might be the greatest American of all time. Born in Sarajevo, he became an actor and a big pop star (with his group Gino Banana) in Bosnia. He came to the U.S. and settled in Seattle, where he acted in plays and formed this band, which has six members from several different countries. Kultur Shock does rock music laced with punk attitude, Balkan folk riffs, and a really really good sense of humor. (They’ve released albums called Kultura-Diktatura and FUCC the I.N.S.)
This is their best-named album, and it is about as tight and funny as music can be in this blighted age. Some of these songs are ablsolutely blistering: “God Is Busy” lays gypsy melodies over an old-school ska-punk tempo, then beefs it up with hard-metal guitars the way Argentine bands do when they do ska. And then, to top it all off, Gino turns in the vocal performance of a lifetime—he croons, he mutters, he testifies, he rants, he screams, he whispers, he utters the album’s title as a taunt and then sneers, “God is busy, can I help you?”
People, we’re still just on the first track out of 10. We have yet to get to the slamming power ballad “Zumbul”, the chrome fury of “Tango”, and the funky “Sarajevo”, where walls of guitar noise and wailing violins make the world sound like a beautiful and scary place to live. They might overdo it a little with the Eastern Europeanisms on some tracks—“Duna” sounds a bit too familiar—but maybe that’s just me, because I listen to a lot of music from this area. Maybe it’ll be fresh to you-all.
One could not say enough good things about the rest of the band, especially on standout tracks like the closer, an update of “Hashishi” where they all basically go off at the same time but then pull it back together for unison passages. The band’s background in theater is apparent; if Kurt Weill was alive today he’d still be grinding it out, and these dudes would be the perfect band to carry on the legacy.
But Kultur Shock really comes down to Gino Yevdjevich, and everything he does is great. His shtick will never grow old, because it’s fun and hyper and smart and about 1000% calculated for maximum effect. Very few people are as good at swearing, and he’s not afraid to be completely amusingly offensive. (Right in the midst of the world-music punk frenzy of “Gino Loves You,” we hear “Gino loves you, he’s alive! / Jesus is the one who died! / Heaven’s gate is open wide! / Everyone can come inside!” Stirring stuff, and my favorite religious commentary of the year.) He’s not the most original cat on the block—Bersuit Vergabarat’s Gustavo Cordera has been doing the ranty croony sweary wild-man baldy thing for many years—but that doesn’t matter, because it’s awesome no matter who’s rocking it.
I highly approve of Kultur Shock, even if they’re here after our jobs. If native-born Americans can’t rock this hard, then we deserve our new Bosnian masters.
- "Hashishishi" MP3
// Notes from the Road
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