“Alcohol” by Gogol Bordello

22. Song No. 133: “Alcohol,” Gogol Bordello
Super Taranta!, 2007

And you know that I’ll pick up
Every time you call
Just to thank you one more time
Alcohol!

Oooohhhh, this is exactly what I wanted from this project (like, in terms of discovering new songs to love that I missed the first time around, not a new toast to bust out when close-proximity drunken revelry is safe again). I know there are so many bands I love for a song or an album at the exclusion of the entire rest of a worthy catalog of work, and Gogol Bordello is a prime example of that unfortunate reality.

Like seemingly everyone else, I discovered Gogol Bordello by way of “Everything is Illuminated”–particularly the end-credit circus of “Start Wearing Purple,” which I promptly downloaded just to piss off my husband. And then the song grew on me, and then it (very, very begrudgingly) grew on him after it had been his ringtone long enough. Eventually, I sought out the album and now “Gypsy Punks: Underground World Strike” (easily the most perfect example of a title telling you exactly how all of its 15 songs are gonna sound so buckle the hell up, by the way) is now my ninth most-played album, according to Last.fm. And it’s not just from weaponizing one of its most recognizable songs in the name of gleeful marital battles usually played out with Nerf swords in Target toy aisles.

I genuinely love this album. It was one of the first big post-college shifts in my musical taste that indicated a world beyond contemplative at best and overwrought at worst indie rock, it was uniquely irresistible in the most boisterously, joyously authentic way, and seeing them live in two very different venues made me appreciate their raw energy and undeniable love of music (to say nothing of a political message that resonates beautifully with mine) on a whole new level. (Seriously, there are few concert experiences quite as intensely satisfying and primally delightful as a Gogol Bordello show. I can’t recommend seeing them live enough, and it’s only partly because Eugene Hütz is a veritable international treasure.)

But so much of that love has been almost solely directed at their third album when there are three other albums on Slothrop the iPod alone chock-full of that same energy and waiting to be discovered.

Gypsy Punks has the dubious honor of being one of those times when my first exposure to a band doesn’t so much set the bar as the standard; that is, the album I fell in love with is a monolith of sorts, and everything after that won’t live up to my expectations. Everything else will sound too derivative if it’s just like the album I want an exact replica of, right on down to the impossible-to-recapture AHA! moment of perfectly scratching a musical itch I didn’t know I had–or will be too much of a departure from the sound that first grabbed me if it’s not. It’s totally unfair and it sets up an impossible ask, but I can’t help the role my biases and tastes play in sabotaging my potential enjoyment of things.

And then this sardonic ode to my favorite vice spoke to me far, far later than it should have. As one of those shamelessly aware members of the “sorry some of us / Given you bad name” camp, though, I think it’s partly expected and mostly fitting that I should show up late to this party. Isolating this band I love from their high-water-mark album so my shitty impulse control is forcibly kept from being stuck on the same handful of songs was what it took to finally step out of my comfort zone, stop skipping around my same six favorites, and discover just how freaking good this band really is. Because they are really, impossibly good and so much more than just one (albeit face-meltingly incredible) album.

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