Given the international attention being paid to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the world is ripe for a new album by Gogol Bordello. Led by Ukrainian-born frontman Eugene Hütz, the gypsy punks, who are now over two decades into a career that originated in Manhattan’s Lower East Side but has included band members from all over the planet, deliver their tenth studio full-length, Solidaritine. With production assistance from NYC hardcore veteran Walter Schreifels, as well as a cover of Fugazi’s “Blueprint” and a guest appearance from Bad Brains’ H.R., Gogol Bordello’s latest album rails against Russia’s unprovoked aggression of present with help from punk luminaries from the past.
“Shot of Solidaritine” opens the record by showcasing the band’s dynamic strengths as they shift easily from Romani folk to punk at double the tempo while Hütz’s lyrics jump seamlessly from English to Slavic and back again. The group utilize a combination of ska and hardcore during “Focus Coin”, a song whose lyrics seem to take aim at the dishonesty of crypto bros. Gogol Bordello put their own spin on Fugazi’s “Blueprint”, infusing the song with violinist Sergey Ryabtsev’s dramatic strings for a rousing finish. Bad Brains’ singer, H.R., joins Hütz on the comparatively positive and upbeat “The Era of the End of Eras” that, with its shouted chorus, could easily be reimagined as a Dropkick Murphys number.
“Take Only What You Can Carry” is the first of two songs on Solidaritine’s second side to feature assistance from Oleksandra Zariska, lead vocalist from the Ukrainian experimental pop band Kazka. Oleksandra’s voice works nicely with Hütz as the two sing lyrics written by Serhiy Zhadan, a Nobel Prize nominated writer and poet from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv. Hütz and Zariska’s emotion is palpable as they sing Zhadan’s lyrics that describe the catastrophic conditions caused by a war that has had a devastating effect on the lives of millions. The ska returns during “Fire on Ice Floe”, a midtempo track that provides a momentary respite from the anti-war anger with lyrics about dancing around a fire in a celebratory fashion.
Solidaritine is concluded with the short and speedy “Huckleberry Generation”. Much like Gogol Bordello’s live performances, here Hütz sounds as if he’s squeezing every last bit of energy out of his body as, in the song’s final minute, he and his bandmates roll headlong into the album’s exhilarating finish. Solidaritine is very much an album of the times and an important document of the Russo-Ukrainian War’s effect on popular culture. Punk aficionados young and old will find something to love on this passionate collection of empathetic, righteous songs.