Eugene Hütz’s Gogol Bordello has been peddling their brand of gypsy-punk for almost two decades now, along the way earning a reputation for offering electrifying live performances, their skills honed thanks to frequent stints on the touring circuit. Except for those deeply enamoured with a band or a particular musical style, something that works in a live setting can end up failing to excite once the spontaneity of the moment, and the shared emotion and camaraderie of the crowd, is removed.
Seekers and Finders, the seventh studio album from Gogol Bordello, opens with the sharp attack of Sergey Ryabtsev’s violin which garners a warm riposte from Pasha Newmerzhitsky’s accordion on Did It All. In short order, the metronomic drums of Alfredo Ortiz join the fray before Hütz enters with vocals, while a sea of eclectic sounds swells underneath to propel the track forth. It doesn’t take a large leap of imagination to picture the gleeful and raucous audiences responding to the song in a live setting. Yet despite knowing how well the song will play in a performance context Did It All doesn’t manage to engage the listener in a meaningful way.
And so the rest of Seekers and Finders follows, a collection of tracks whose greatest achievement is making the listener acutely aware of how much more compelling they would be when heard among the sweaty throng at a gig. Regina Spektor appears on the eponymous Seekers and Finders but her contribution is squandered, with her performance feeling like it could have been provided by any backing vocalist. A country tinge to the guitar on Walking on the Burning Coal, and a surf-rock vibe on Familia Bonfireball, demonstrate that Hütz and co are adept at blending styles – but why they went for elevator-muzak on Clearvoyance is anyone’s guess.
Lead single Saboteur Blues stands out as the album’s must hear track, offering a satisfying hard-rock sound, thought listener’s drawn in by this must be warned it is not at all indicative of Seekers and Finders sound in the least. Loyal fans of Gogol Bordello will probably find some value in Seekers and Finders as a record, but more casual fans and audiences would be better served by seeing the band live.