Despite the presence of legendary guru/facial fuzz fanatic Rick Rubin in the producer’s chair, the last outing from the rambunctious gypsy-punks, 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle, felt rather stale. The songs themselves have always been the least essential element in the chaotic crucible that makes up Gogol Bordello but after a hectic few years that saw the group furiously touring the world and frontman Eugene Hutz starring in one of Madonna’s vanity film projects, for once the nine-piece felt short on ideas.
Never shrinking violets, the group seem to have recognised this themselves and thus Pura Vida Conspiracy opens with a track entitled ‘We Rise Again’ which re-establishes their roots-radical agenda in ragged and energetic fashion. Ironically whilst Rubin has not returned on production duties, it’s his right-hand man and assistant on albums by the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Andrew Sheps who takes the controls. Given the unenviable task of capturing the dynamism and energy of the chaotic group, Sheps proves a much better fit for the band than his old employer ever did, polishing their sound where necessary but allowing their fiery spirit to shine through.
Hutz has touted Pura Vida Conspiracy as being about the “pure joy of being who you are” and there’s certainly a sense of ecstasy at work as the rag-tag band (note – it’s compulsory that every journalist must describe them thusly) push themselves to a new degree of intensity. ‘Gypsy Auto Pilot’ and ‘John the Conqueror’ have a real fire as he sings of his life on the road and his quest to “unite a single world consciousness”.
Like fellow international party starters The Hives, the best introduction to Gogol Bordello remains their sweaty, wine-drenched, all-inclusive live experience but if ragged folk-punk workouts float your boat Pura Vida Conspiracy is as good a place to start as any other. Six albums in Gogol Bordello are still living the good life.