CD: Gogol Bordello, Super Taranta!

The New Yorkers channel the spirit of the Clash via eastern European jazz and folk. Which is a good thing, says Garry Mulholland

Gogol Bordello are a perfect band for their times. Not because they fit in. But because they absolutely and utterly don't. Pop desperately needs some reminders that it was once an unpredictable countercultural force, and it needs those reminders to be funny, sexy and accessible. This nine-piece band from New York fit all those criteria, and then add their ebullient fusion of Western rock, Gypsy jazz and Ukrainian folk, implicitly challenging racist perceptions of eastern Europeans and Gypsies as scrounging refugees. Gogol Bordello are culturally useful as well as musically exciting. Perfect.

Led by the larger-than-life Eugene Hutz, Gogol Bordello's name is inspired by Nikolai Gogol, because of his success at smuggling some Ukrainian culture into mainstream Europe. Super Taranta! is the band's fifth album and the word 'taranta' derives from tarantella, a traditional Italian dance that, legend has it, cured tarantula bites. Or it was a wild circular dance that women were forced to perform until they exhausted their repressed sexual desires. Wherever the truth of taranta's origin lies, it's a pretty good metaphor for the globally informed dervish dance music the band play, and the melting-pot worldview they purvey.

The Clash are an acknowledged influence, and it's Joe Strummer's latter-day Mescaleros muse that Super Taranta! constantly evokes, with its excited lyrics and chanted choruses you can imagine being hollered around those legendary Strummer campfires at festivals. It's world music dominated by accordion and fiddles played with punkish, Pogues-ish energy, often underpinned by a reggae pulse, and produced beautifully by Nick Cave/PJ Harvey producer Victor Van Vugt.

References to revolutionary action and political, social and cultural history are shoved together with tall tales in hyperactive, surreal rushes of broken English and occasional Ukrainian. Titles such as 'Wonderlust King', 'My Strange Uncles from Abroad', 'Tribal Connection' and 'Forces of Victory' tell you much about this record. But the vibrant, indefatigable music of the title track, 'Ultimate', 'Zina-Marina' and 'Supertheory of Supereverything' tells you even more.

The last of these songs opens with the best lines, and ones that exemplify Hutz's love of comically butchered English: 'First time I had read the Bible/ It had stroke me as unwitty/ I think it may started rumour/ That the Lord ain't got no humour.' Therein lies the iconoclasm, slapstick and wisdom that makes Super Taranta! such a singularly rousing gem.

Download: 'Super Taranta!'; 'Zina-Marina'; 'Supertheory of Supereverything'

Garry Mullholland

The GuardianTramp

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