Gogol Bordello: Pura Vida Conspiracy

Gypsy folk punk may be too idiosyncratic to ever be mainstream. That said, if there ever was a Gogol Bordello album that deserves to launch them onto American radio waves, it’s Pura Vida Conspiracy.

Gogol Bordello

Pura Vida Conspiracy

Label: ATO
US Release Date: 2013-07-23
UK Release Date: 2013-07-22
Artist website

True to their vow of a battle cry, Gogol Bordello keeps "coming rougher every time". New album Pura Vida Conspiracy, their sixth, finds them at their most ragged and unhinged, the sound of collaborative anarchism distilled into its punchiest presentation yet. So distinct and inimitable their sound, the Gypsy punk commune recognizes there’s not much point in deviating from a working paradigm, yet at the same time, Pura Vida Conspiracy does show elements of growth factored into the mix, though those aspects might not be obvious on initial listens.

Fans can rest assured the ramshackle punk uprising motif that defines Gogol Bordello has not declined and continues to sound invigorating. Not since the Pogues has an outfit so successfully merged surging punk and world music, and surely the resulting popularity is indebted to the charismatic, larger than life persona of Eugene Hütz, more a maestro in a storm than a mere frontman. With the social commentary in his lyrics and the rabble-rousing frenzy of the musical compositions they’re contained in, Hütz stands as the Ukrainian Joe Strummer. That the songs never cease to be so goddamn fun despite their lyrical weight is a testament to Hütz’s acumen as a songwriter.

Opener “We Rise Again” distills all that is Gogol Bordello — a tapestry of interwoven acoustic and electric guitars, spiraling violins, seesawing accordions, rapid fire drumming and such new age sentiments as “Borders are scars on face of the planet / So heal away / My alchemy man." Starting with a chant surrounding the repeated title, it morphs into an anthem that, despite its lyrical themes, beckons more for revelry than staging a political coup. In the middle is Hütz giving the first of the record’s abundant sing-along choruses in his thick, Slavic accent: “With a fistful of heart and really cool future / We rise again!” Is it a rehash of ground they’ve covered before? Sure, but in the spirit of the earliest punk bands, that seems like an invalid complaint when the tune is so high-energy and kickass.

“Dig Deep Enough” carries on the idea of self-actualization and resilience amid a tune that begins with the plucked melody of a European folk song, before erupting into a stomping march of a refrain. This is a common course of action throughout the album, as nearly all of the songs seemingly bristle at the idea of restraint. Whatever effort is made to hold back and grow with subtlety is shredded in favor of cacophony. Lead single “Malandrino” best exemplifies this, starting with Hütz offering fabled self-reflection of youth with just an acoustic guitar before the bass, drums and violins come in, flushing it out without intruding. But then, come the 1:10 mark, as Hütz declares, “I was born with singing heart,” the tune detonates into the breakneck drums for the refrain. The quiet-loud-quiet dynamic continues throughout the cut, growing frenetically as it progresses.

But not everything here is business as usual. Chief among the new ingredients simmering in Gogol Bordello’s melting pot is a southwestern feel. That the record was recorded in El Paso, Texas, no doubt contributes to this. One of the most raucous and memorable tunes here, “Lost Innocent World”, carries that desert sweep sensation, and “Malandrino” has a dose of a mariachi or Latin flavor in its brass section. The psychedelic hymnal of reincarnation, “Amen”, likewise has that a hard to define drifting weariness that seems inherent to a sun-scorched landscape. On the flipside, there is the seafaring sway of “Name Your Ship”, bobbing on the rhythm of a ship adrift at sea, complete with shouted “heigh hoes". When Hütz proclaims the chorus’s cautionary aphorism, a galley of drunken sailors yells along: “You taught your parrot to stutter / Now you repeat his own chatter / But it’s the way that you name your ship / That’s the way it’s gonna row."

Despite the record’s focus on audible pandemonium, there are a few numbers were the band manages to tether their inclination for chaos. “I Just Realized”, for example, is restrained throughout, Hütz delivering a shuffling ballad of desperation and obsession above another Latin-tinged rhythm. “Where is the exit? / Of course, there is none," he sings, Elizabeth Sun taking a prominent role as she delicately harmonizes and coos with him. Past experience puts the listener on guard, expecting the tune to erupt, but it never does, which serves it well. Closer “We Shall Sail” is a significant departure as well, being just Hütz on acoustic guitar singing insights both pensive and affirming. His intensity rises during the song before tapering off, ending it and the album as a whole on a quiet note. (Or, it would end it on a quiet note if a hidden bonus track didn’t arise, all metal lumbering and speed punk thrashing. Feel free to end the disc at “We Shall Sail” and ignore it.)

As always, there can be some difficulty discerning where Gogol Bordello’s tongue-in-cheek approach ends and their sincerity begins, but whether this is a limitation or a strength is itself open to interpretation. Also, in a weirdly contradictory way, the band’s big sound can its way be confining. There is no band that sounds remotely like Gogol Bordello, which means one has to be in a very specific mood to listen to them, and this record is no exception. Gypsy folk punk may be too idiosyncratic to ever be mainstream. That said, if there ever was a Gogol Bordello album that deserves to launch them onto American radio waves, it’s Pura Vida Conspiracy.






The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.