Friday, October 23, 2009

for Sale

Gogol Bordello, Live from Axis Mundi, SideOneDummy Records

Be Donald Trump or be an anarchist.
-- Gogol Bordello, "American Wedding"

A few weeks ago, I reviewed an Otis Redding starter kit, Shout
Factory's The Best: See & Hear, a CD/DVD set. Live from Ax-
serves a similar purpose for Gogol Bordello, even if
the 11-track CD consists of radio sessions, outtakes, and demos,
while Redding's consists of studio-recorded hit singles (in this
case, "finishing kit" might provide a more applicable term).

Though the New York City-based nine-piece doesn't other-
wise have much in common with the late Georgia soul sing-
er, they're also known for their intense live performances.

Like moustachioed singer and
guitarist Eugene Hütz, who
hails from the Ukraine, most
of the band immigrated from
Eastern Europe and Israel.
Since 1999 and over the
course of four full-lengths,
Roma-style violin and accor-
dion have provided a base for
his impassioned, heavily-accented vocals as guitars crunch and drums pound (as an actor, the charismatic Hütz has appeared in Everything Is Illuminated and Madonna's Filth & Wisdom).

On fan favorite "Trouble Friends," from 2005's Gypsy Punks
sessions, the nonet adds washboard—or something that sounds
just like it—to their arsenal, while on "You Gave Up (Roumania),"
recorded for BBC's Radio 1, the guitar-shredding could put Met-
allica to shame. There's a sense that if it sounds good, they'll try
it, hence the Afro-beat horns that decorate "Immigrant Punks,"
which recalls nothing so much as Combat Rock-era Clash.

Never having seen the band before, the DVD offers my first
exposure (by proxy). It captures Gogol Bordello in two sold-
out concerts at NYC's Irving Plaza in 2007. In their goulash of
worlds both old and new, they provide an Eastern Bloc answer
to the whiskey-soaked Pogues, except Hütz seems more, well,
focused than Shane McGowan...for lack of a better word.

As on the CD, the showstopper is the sinuous "Mishto!," even if
the accordion player goes a little off-pitch. The musicians seem
to have the most fun playing the number, which comes on like
DeVotchka fronted by a more rambunctious vocalist. The rest
of the DVD contains extra live tracks, videos, and featurettes.

Sweaty fun for the whole extended clan, Live at Axis Mundi
also works as a sort of thriller: Will Hütz's low-cut jeans stay
on or not? (You'll have to watch for yourself. I'll never tell.)

Cosmo Jarvis, self-titled, Wall of Sound Recordings

Wild humans for sale, but the souls will cost you extra.
-- Cosmo Jarvis, "Wild Humans"

Musically, 19-year-old New Jersey multi-instrumentalist Cos-
mo Jarvis (née Harrison Cosmo Krikoryan Jarvis) recalls Of
Montreal; vocally, he recalls former Pulp member Richard Haw-
. Lyrically, the situation become cloudier, because Jarvis
likes to sing about young actresses, Toy Story 2, and whatever
else strikes his fancy. Of British and Armenian descent, Jarvis has
written 250 songs, produced 100 recordings, and directed 40
short films. I could do without a few of his more adolescent lyrics,
but can forgive most anyone who adds stand-up bass to the mix.
Recommended to fans of MC 900 Foot Jesus and the Streets.

Joel Plaskett, Three, MapleMusic Recordings [4/21/09]

It's a long, long way to Winnipeg.
-- Joel Plaskett, "Wishful Thinking"

For the most part, Halifax native Joel Plaskett, who was 33-1/3
years old when he recorded Three, has his own sound, but at
times he brings Steve Earle, the Band, and a few other insurgent
country acts to mind (to swipe a term from Bloodshot Records).
So it comes as little surprise that he laid down the tracks on this
set in the US and Canada, specifically Ontario, Nova Scotia, Tex-
as, and Tennessee with Doug Easley (Tav Falco's Panther Burns).

As a singer, Plaskett isn't as distinctive as Earle or Levon Helm, but his voice is easy on the ears; comfortable and conversational, like a friend sharing stories rather than a troubadour trying to impress (to that list, the AMG adds Gram Parsons and Jeff Buckley).

Similarly, Plaskett's sixth CD, with or without the Emergency,
is an easygoing listen with electric and acoustic guitars, penny whistles, and fiddles, lending the proceedings a Celtic vibe. There
are no duds, but three discs is still a bit much. I never got bored
or irritated, but my mind wandered at times, which isn't a bad
thing, just a sign that a shorter set might've been sufficient.

Click here for my review of Ashtray Rock

Endnote: For more information about Gogol Bordello, please click here or here; for Cosmo Jarvis, here or here; and for Joel Plaskett, here or here. Photos from New York (Getty Images), Pat Angello Fan Club Music Blog, and Driven (Ingram Barss).

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