Geoff Berner: Klezmer Mongrels

[21 January 2009]

By Alan Ranta

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.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/68774-geoff-berner-klezmer-mongrels/