Sound ‘Round: Hamell on Trial / Gogol Bordello

Street performers and gypsy punks resist and endure

Hamell on Trial – Tackle Box (New West)

To label a streetwise bohemian like Edward Hamell a mere comedian diminishes his art and lessens the dangers of these terrible times. He’s a smartass, sure, but his lyrical barbs are more than cheap laughs. They’re cynical truisms from a one-man-band smart enough to know the cathartic value of gallows humor. Targets of vitriol are obvious — President Diablo and law-breaking cops, for the newcomers. The world is rightly awash in protest anthems, and preaching to the converted doesn’t do much good. So credit the 62-year-old Hamell for pondering global dilemmas through the smaller and more pressing prism of fatherhood. “What am I supposed to tell my child when morals and integrity have all run wild?” precedes “How do I tell my son this ain’t the way when the schoolyard bully is the president today?” precedes “I’m trying to teach my kid there’s some authority that needs to be respected.” His parental instinct softens his pessimism and opens a doorway through which his rage transforms into compassion and heartache. He honors an estranged childhood friend taken by cancer and the finale mourns a broken marriage that lingers a decade later. Good on him for learning to love again. She’s an immigrant who hates the president. And they lived happily ever after.  GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: “NOT ARETHA’S RESPECT (COPS)” / “BALLAD OF CHRIS” / “MOUTHY B”

Gogol Bordello – Seekers and Finders (Casa Gogol)

Every punk group worth their salt makes a record wherein they rage against life’s great inevitabilities: age, death, (gulp) contentment. But for Eugene Hutz, 45, his dread is more personal. Born in Soviet-ruled Ukraine, he knows first-hand the sinister rule favored by the kind of despots occupying the White House. He and his band of fellow gypsies also understand how to fight beyond the ballot box — with agape love and an unbeatable humanist streak. Musically, they are rightly at their most subdued. Partying can wait during mass deportations. But Hutz’s thick accent renders verse after verse of some of the year’s most spirited lyrics. Assemble his best one-liners, and you reveal a protest hymn for the ages. “There must be more to this life than one strife after strife.” “One mania after mania / One phobia after phobia / One damn strife after strife / Promises of the afterlife.” “Life quest for a unity / Death propels the community / To break all the dividers.” “The undividable will hold me up when all goes down.” “With immigrant stamina you know who you are. “And all I know as on we go / The more it’s like so long time ago / My eyes and heart still open wide / Towards unknown and silvery tide.” GRADE: A

Key Tracks: “You Know Who We Are (Uprooted Funk)” / “Seekers and Finders” / “Break Into Your Higher Self”

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