Gypsy Part of Town

Come savor the beaty delights of European multiculturalism, Arabski kjuchek included

Pick Hits

Gypsy Punks:Underdog World Strike
(Side One Dummy)

I've never gotten the very few bands like this: neither black nor green Negresses Vertes, strident pub politicos Black 47, squeezeboxing omnivore Kepa Junkera. Even before it jelled, however, I got this. Balkan immigrants flee some combination of thieving bureaucrats, bootstrapping hustlers, Yugoslavian genocide, and anomie. The underworld no-accounts of old Montmartre pursuing Eurotrash chic, they valorize their half-imposed marginalization by reaching out to fellow jetsam from other international backwaters where Islam is an everyday thing. Bootstrapping hustler Eugene Hutz formed a band in this subculture, which for all I know he invented first—rock, yes, but with its segmented groove and village dance rhythms very un- American (and un-African). This album is that band's statement of principle, cri de coeur, and ring grab—Hutz hectoring his way through a bacchanalian rant that's broken into songs that want to be slogans. Sixty revolutions per minute, this is my regular speed. You are the only life there is for yourself my friend. It is all connected through the Gypsy part of town. A

(World Music Network, 6 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX, England)

The Rom, as these notes call them, set out from India a millennium ago and have long played music the way African freedmen did in Cuba—because it's low-class, low-paying work, but also because they're thought to have a knack. By 1700 or sooner they had seized local styles in dozens of European locales. There is no "real" Gypsy music, but the daredevil fiddles, skirling horns, and extreme vocals of the Balkan strains whose ins and outs they deploy come close enough. I'd never heard of most of these Romanian, Bulgarian, and other bands, but those I've encountered before, including Taraf de Ha‹douks on a standout cut absent from their two Nonesuch albums, have never sounded better than in this can-you- top-this party. Not a new groove because it's not smooth enough. But more than one new beat, usually with a history. A MINUS

Bang Bang Rock & Roll
(Banana Recordings/Fierce Panda, Box 21441, London N7 6WZ)

Although this crudely hooky three-chord guitar band are working on a concept EP about a Red Brigade spinoff, their debut album is the kind that brooks no follow-up. Beginning with "Formed a Band" ("Dye your hair black/Never look back"), it really should end with "Stand Down" ("Some of us want to go back to our families") rather than the one about the 18,000-lira bank robbery. Young love, impotence, older love, charging head down at a stray Matisse, and being bored with the Velvet Underground: this is the stuff of one-shot art- punk. Mike Skinner, meet Eddie Argos—the perfect collaborator, and he'll be looking for work. A MINUS

Can't Make Me!
(Asphalt Tango, c/o Harmonia Mundi, 2037 Granville Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90025)

Like most Gypsy outfits, these Hungarians work weddings, which involves pleasing many ethnic subgroupings—subber than the "Albanian, Greek, Serbian, Macedonian, and Turkish" cited in the notes—and complement many moods. Some of these moods are kind of moody, and the players like to show off their chops and their respect for propriety. In general, however, they're wild panethnic fun for the entire family—and fertile, that's important, fertile. B PLUS

Live! In Tune and On Time

Recombinant is the idea with any DJ, but who'd expect even Shadow to make a live album worth hearing twice? Yet this hits-and-obscurities set is cannier than that of rock bands with twice as many titles to choose from: pieces of Endtroducing and Private Press reconfigured to mesh with pieces of Preemptive Strike and Psyence Fiction while and generating the same old illusion of inevitability. Sounded so right it got me to watch the bonus DVD version. Some of it, anyway—better his wrists and fingers than the superimposed film clips of freeway traffic and such assembled for the ticket buyers. A MINUS

The Cookbook
(Atlantic/Gold Mind)

On this benchmark album that half the beatoisie will sleep on because it has no "Work It" and Timbaland, after all, was the genius (which he was)—this benchmark album that given the vagaries of fashion could initiate a permanent commercial decline—Elliott showcases the musical health of African American pop. Oldschoolfreshbeathiphopr&b—run through Elliott's considerable talent and good heart or reasonable facsimile, these are meaningless categories. Elliott's disinclination to give it up to gangsta's thrill cult or black pop's soft-focus porn, plus her proven ability to work a good beat when she gets one, leads her naturally to a collection that ebbs and flows, peaks and dips, and pokes fun at any canon of taste you got. It's vital beginning to end—vital even when it's misguided, a matter on which your judgments may differ from mine, fine with her. A MINUS

East Infection

For two albums, Eugene Hutz's concept was better than his songs. On this EP, spillover off an album in progress is manna from Thrace. No need to repeat the contentious bathhouse romp "Ave. B"—the flag-waving "East Infection," the baton-passing "Strange Uncles From Abroad," and the Romanian-tuned "Madagascar" would have sufficed. A MINUS

Next Page »
New York Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • May
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat