So last week Gogol Bordello played a show in Montreal. I wasn’t able to attend since I’m not currently employed and I’m trying to control my spending. It was also on a Tuesday. Also I have seen them twice before. Also there was a surprising amount of people on my Facebook wall talking about how they were going and how awesome the band was and the like. There were also people who I’ve been friends with for like ten years who were like “How have I never heard of Gogol Bordello before?”.

My reaction, which I of course didn’t share since that would involve a lot of effort, was “They’ve been around forever.” Then I got to thinking: How long have they been around? Their first album “Voi-La Intruder”  came out in 1999. I figure I picked it up at some point in either late 2000 or early 2001. Is it still any good? Yes, yes it is.

voi la intruderWow, look at that album art. That album art screams “1999 low budget album”. I sort of love it though. I mean, I’m not even sure if it tells you everything you need to know about the band or nothing at all. Either way, it’s awesome.

Anyhow. the reason I found out about Gogol Bordello is actually slightly embarrassing. I grew up in the suburbs and the internet was just starting to be around. It was like a constant struggle to not be sheltered. One day I was taking the train from downtown back to my home in the suburbs alone and figured I would pick up a magazine. I used to try to pick up music magazines in an effort to diminish my musical ignorance and was old enough to know that Rolling Stone and SPIN were basically shit magazines that would just waste my time telling me about bands I probably already hated.

I was still a little ignorant in the world of music magazines though because I picked up a copy of Alternative Press, as you can imagine I was sorely disappointed. The whole thing was filled with bands that looked like jackasses and if I spent the time to check them out I had my suspicions confirmed. I distinctly remember Coheed and Cambria being a “band to watch.” However, there was one band that I was immediately drawn to, even before I read the write-up I saw this picture:

gogol bordello, voi la intruder

Well, it was two pictures. This picture and one of Eugene Hutz using the spread legs of one of the dancers and a giant rubber band to shoot stuff at the audience. Reading the article I was told that they were a self-styled “gypsy punk” band.

A few weeks later Vice magazine told me I should be listening to them too. AP was pretty shitty, but Vice? Yep, I got the album. Voi-La Intruder was awesome.

Now, more than 10 years later I put it on again. I go through phases of listening to Gogol Bordello, the traditional gypsy sound mixed with fast strumming guitars and Hutz’s raspy Eastern European vocal quality and broken English lyrics is a magical mix that is sometimes exactly what you’re looking for even if you don’t realize it.

Other than the recording quality, which is admittedly lacking, the album stands up remarkably well. I had almost forgotten (like, maybe I would’ve known if I was asked directly but didn’t really realize consciously) that some of their best known tracks were all from “Voi-La Intruder”. Tracks like “Passport”, “Start Wearing Purple”, “God Like” and “Unvisible Zedd” are all here in their slightly fuzzy glory.

That being said, I was sort of surprised at the lack of evolution from the band. This disc was recorded 13 years ago and the sound has barely changed one bit. Which I mean, I guess is ok, it’s a good sound, why fuck with it? I mean, the “sound” of Gogol Bordello is even older than the band itself. Violins, accordions, Eastern European sing-along choruses, etc. However, I was still a little sad that in terms of content the band hasn’t really evolved. That doesn’t mean it’s no good, if anything, it means that if you only have later albums you won’t be disappointed when you pick up the debut.

How do I rate it? It is amazing music to get day-drunk by yourself to. That’s high praise chums.

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