Gogol Bordello’s whole career has been a fight to sync up tune and sound, matching the inherent uniqueness of their gypsy punk with lead singer Eugene Hütz’s spotty (but often mesmerizing) songwriting. They reached their peak in this regard with two records in the mid-2000s, 2005’s Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike and the 2007 opus Super Taranta! The former is a song album, the latter an exploration of just how far they can go as a rock band—one strong enough to cause mosh pits with an accordion.
After those two brilliant albums, the band fell back a bit with 2010’s Trans-Continental Hustle, in which their sonics couldn’t survive Rick Rubin’s tame production and Hütz seemed just as tired. Some songs (“My Companjera,” “Sun is on My Side”) were strong enough to appear as though they could fit in fine on the band’s earlier releases, assuming the production were redone heavily, but for the most part, there was little to salvage the work. Then 2013’s Pura Vida Conspiracy came out, an improvement, if still fairly tame, a singer-songwriter record that didn’t have quite enough of their trademark energy (the rowdiest song “Jealous Sister” was hidden seven minutes into the final track).
Now, four years later, their seventh album Seekers and Finders has been unveiled, which is the problem: their albums should explode out the gate; even the weakest Gogol Bordello albums should make an impression. Here, the energy is back up slightly, with a stronger production job (handled by Hütz himself) and a good number of fast, punky tracks, but the fact that Seekers and Finders badly wants to impress makes it disheartening when it winds up the band’s weakest since their debut. It’s an album that does everything right, but beyond some great lines (never in short supply in this group’s work), it still underwhelms. Worse yet, even at 37 minutes, this feels worn out by the end, odd considering that their 2005 and 2007 masterworks are each over an hour.
Perhaps it’s the fact that they’ve been squeezed dry, Hütz has said all that he has to say, and they’ve taken the gypsy punk genre as far as it can go. But no, the highlights—the manic “Saboteur Blues” (“So roll over Darwin/Tell Descartes the news/It’s the end/Of my saboteur blues”) and the title track—are transcendent, showing that both genre and craftsman have enough juice for some great music. The problem is mainly that, despite these attempts at power, the band’s hearts still seem to be on the soft and poignant. I can’t help but wish they’d combined the two more, backing their intellect with a sound heavy enough to support it. They’ve certainly done it before—their greatest song “Ultimate” tied some of the loudest, finest music of their career with a lyric critical of romanticizing the past.
Nothing reaches that level here. It’s too reserved, keeping the ruckus and philosophizing separate when they should be inseparable, joined at the hip the way all great punk bands (and make no mistake, Gogol Bordello is one) have always kept them.