Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Gogol Bordello: Pura Vida Conspiracy

In some countries, the phrase “pura vida” is Spanish slang that functions similarly to “aloha” and the shaka sign in Hawaiian culture—both greeting and goodbye—but with the added usage of conveying contentment. That laid-back sentiment doesn’t really vibe with the thunderous train that is Eugene Hütz and Gogol Bordello. That’s where the conspiracy comes in on the group’s sixth album, Pura Vida Conspiracy. Recorded in El Paso with Andrew Scheps, it’s not a thematic step forward—Hütz still looks at the world’s citizens as guests who haven’t shown up to his musical rebellion yet—but it continues the ever-expanding stylistic Rolodex from which the band draws.


Hütz has always emphasized the traveling-circus nature of his band, self-identifying as gypsy instead of treating the term as a pejorative. He embraces every location, folding in the music of each region as he moves through life. This time, it’s most explicitly mariachi that joins flamenco and salsa on the record, evident in “Dig Deep Enough” and “Malandrino,” albeit with the requisite transition into double-time punk backbeats. The lighter moments, on “I Just Realized,” and album-closer “We Shall Sail” incorporate that mariachi tone into reggae and ska. Pura Vida Conspiracy has a slanted south-of-the-border feel, but Hütz always manages to throw in unexpected tinges, from reggae (“Hieroglyph”) to empty-highway country (“Lost Innocent World”), and the raise-your-glass jukebox tunes like sea shanty “It Is The Way You Name Your Ship” that would sound best sung by an entire bar or by the audience at one of Gogol Bordello’s legendarily adrenaline-fueled concerts.

This is the band’s second album in a row to lean harder on new musical influences—Hütz lived in Brazil before recording Trans-Continental Hustle with Rick Rubin and sings in Spanish throughout the record. But it hasn’t progressed so far as to become devoted to whatever exotic flavor is in style that year. There are still standard punk songs with accordion and strings on the record, as well as the deceptively titled straight-ahead rocker “My Gypsy Auto Pilot.”

At its best, Pura Vida Conspiracy is a consistently raucous exposition of stylistic souvenirs from Hütz’s continuously expanding catalog of international influences. Someday the constantly scruffy whirling dervish has to wear out, but while Hütz and company still appear to have limitless energy to forge community and expand musical horizons, they’ll keep composing fist-in-the-air anthems while marching to a different beat on each outing.