Gogol Bordello’s problem has never been breadth: Infamous for stuffing everything from punk to flamenco into its globe-shaped stewpot, the sprawling ensemble has released a body of work that practically oozes eclecticism. Depth, on the other hand, has sometimes been an issue. Frontman Eugene Hutz is always ready with a passionate, politically charged lyric, but the band’s admittedly prodigious energy sometimes reduces its discs to buzzing contraptions with only two settings: crazy and crazier.
Relatively speaking, Trans-Continental Hustle takes a bit of a breather. Although the group is still a whirling dervish of rubbery rhythms, bleating horns, and fiddles that rip like Slayer riffs, it applies the brakes to songs such as “Sun On My Side,” a ballad that pits Hutz’s cracked Ukrainian bark against sighing accordion and an introspective vibe. And even when he rages—as on the single “Immigraniada (We Comin’ Rougher),” an anti-xenophobe anthem that sounds like a gypsified Bad Religion—there’s a tenderness, much of which can be attributed to the acoustic guitars that have replaced the distortion of the group’s last album, Super Taranta! With his embrace of pop, folk, and ethnic consciousness, Hutz could be the Slavic Shane MacGowan—and while Hustle isn’t a breakthrough on par with If I Should Fall From Grace With God, it’s certainly one step closer.