Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Gypsy Punk

Lately I've been diggin' me some so-called "gypsy punk," a genre that previously I didn't even know existed. Yet over the past few months, I've independently stumbled upon two bands that could be each classified as such.

First, there's Gogol Bordello whose frontman Eugene Hütz is credited with coining the term "gypsy punk cabaret" to describe the band, which is a punk-infused Eastern European romp. The gala screening at the Edmonton Film Festival in October was a film called Wristcutters: A Love Story, an offbeat roadtrip comedy set in an alternate plane of existence where all the suicide victims end up and "everything's the same, just a little bit worse". It's quite a charming little gem of a movie with inspired performances from an eclectic cast that includes Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), Tom Waits (!), Shannyn Sossamon, Shea Whigham, and Arrested Development's Will Arnett (as a self-proclaimed Messiah, no less). I found out after that some of the music on the soundtrack was done by Gogol Bordello, so I checked the library and we had a couple of their CDs. Shea Whigham's character Eugene, who electrocutes himself and dies mid-song at a gig, is no doubt inspired by Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hütz (who presumably did not electrocute himself and die mid-song at a gig).

Here are a couple of my favourite tracks:
Gogol Bordello - When The Trickster Starts A-Poking (Bordello Kind Of Guy)
Gogol Bordello - I Would Never Wanna Be Young Again
Gogol Bordello - Huliganjetta

The other band I've started listening to is Golem. Apparently gypsy punk can be further sub-categorized: Gogol Bordello could be considered Slavic gypsy punk while Golem is more along the lines of klezmer/Yiddish gypsy punk. I first took note of Golem when I heard their song Warsaw is Khelm, which features Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls sharing lead vocals.

Golem - Warsaw is Khelm (featuring Amanda Palmer)
Golem - Mazel
Golem - The Rent

I suspect my affinity for this genre goes back to my days as a huge fan of Captain Tractor, a local band whose music is usually Celtic folk-rock but they have a few songs that share the same "gypsy punk" vibe. For example, the conspicuously titled Gypsy Music, a 30-second throwaway track from their Bought The Farm album. Also, a cover of If I Were a Rich Man, which I posted long ago in the formative stages of this blog.

Captain Tractor - Gypsy Music
Captain Tractor - If I Were a Rich Man [originally by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick from Fiddler on the Roof]

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