Gogol Bordello – Pura Vida Conspiracy (Music Review)

Pura Vida Conspiracy cover

Gogol Bordello – Pura Vida Conspiracy

“Gypsy punk” band Gogol Bordello is back with Pura Vida Conspiracy, their first album in three years. Once again, they celebrate their own culture with a world-spanning fusion that owes as much to New York City as to their actual roots. It’s  a powerful and liberating sound, though, jumping from raw folk to melodic punk as needed. Sometimes they cover both extremes in one song, as in “Malandrino”. That track demonstrates how a good, simple, heartfelt song can be used in so many ways.

The band is slowly incorporating more wide-ranging styles, especially from Latin America, but the music here is mostly comparable to 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle. The band is slower and more thoughtful than in their early days, with time for storytelling and long diversions, but the wild heart is not gone. The band has always walked a thin line between parties and lectures, and while their more “mature” style may put them in danger of crossing that line someday, that hasn’t happened yet.

Gogol Bordello also usually strikes a balance between celebrating life and facing down tragedies. That’s where Conspiracy differs the most from Hustle. While the last album was aggressively angry and depressed, even going as far as to call most of their fanbase racist, this one is almost exclusively optimistic. Frontman Eugene Hütz spouts a lot of mystical feel-good lines (“every lifetime, we meet same circle of souls”). The impression is of an enlightened foreigner filled with the Zen-like secrets to a happy life. Of course, the very title of “Pura Vida Conspiracy” undercuts that literal reading, and Hütz is too adept at tweaking the settled mainstream audience that he is performing for. It’s hard to tell what to make of that, but it’s easy enough just to enjoy his charisma and good mood. If Hütz likes to tease you from time to time, that’s just the price of admission to his party.

Pura Vida Conspiracy continues the string of hits for Gogol Bordello. I find some of the mystical-but-not-actionable advice to be silly, but this makes a good counterbalance to some of the darker, more grounded, parts of their catalog. This band shows that it is possible to mature, and even soften your sound, without losing your edge.

Grade: B

 
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