November 18, 2011

Zdob Si Zdub | Basta Mafia!

ARTIST:  Zdob Si Zdub 
TITLE:  Basta Mafia! 
LABEL:  Asphalt Tango 
REVIEW:  Zdob Si Zdub is a rock band from Moldova that started out in 1994 playing Russian-language punk (their first recording is entitled Moldovan Hardcore).
They soon added Romanian elements like Balkan brass and gypsy fiddling to their sound (Moldova borders Romania and Ukraine), switched from Russian to Romanian and English, and forged an identity as one of Eastern Europe’s top ethno-rock bands.  On Zdob Si Zdub’s first Western European release, recorded in Berlin for Asphalt Tango Records, the band veers way too closely to arena-rock territory on several tracks.  But at their best, they rival artists like USA’s Gogol Bordello, Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra from ex-Yugoslavia and Slovenia’s Magnifico for pure manic Balkan-punk energy.  Track 13 is ska-punk Balkan style (and was Moldova’s 2011 Eurovision Song Contest entry), 12 inexplicably adds an Italian tarantella (and some great punk lyrics) to the mix and 8 makes great use of what sounds like hurdy-gurdy.  Best of all is the title track (1), a third-and-a-half minute review of post-Soviet Eastern Europe with a punk sensibility and a Manu Chao-like melody; it’s one of my favorite songs of the year. 
TOP TRACKS:    1    8    12    13
ALSO RECOMMENDED:    2    5    9    11

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