Zdob si Zdub
added: 30 May 2012
// release date: 14 May 2012 // label: Asphalt Tango Records
Zdob si Zdub
reviewer: Claudia A
is truly an international band. Beginning humbly as a Moldavian folk influenced ska-punk band, they’ve since layered a global mix of innovative alt-rock / electronica dance music that’s still steeped in traditional roots.
In fact, their song ‘So Lucky’ propelled the band into the finals of the Eurovision song contest, with the likes of Adele
and Plan B
producer Paul Epworth
tweeting “I just thought it was brilliant and so far removed from the Western European entries…”
Not content with remaining a Eurovision one-hit wonder, the band showed that they were here to stay, with no plans to return to their native soil. This also counts for the music, as the title of the new album ‘Basta Mafia!’ suggests with irony and humour: stop the old ways – not just the political ones but also the musical and mental ones.
To make a fresh start and depart from the band of yonder, Zdob si Zdub decided to embark on the multi-cultural city of Berlin, Germany – a place that already transformed luminaries such as Bowie, Iggy Pop and U2. Working with Marc Elsner
as innovative producer, New York’s Andy Schuman
was brought aboard to translate lead singer Roman Iagupov’s
vision from native into English language. While this is an inspired move, it’s the songs belted out in the band’s native language – such as Trece Vrema Omului - that still sound the strongest and most intriguing.
‘Nistru’ is melancholic folk ballad, performed in (broken) English, once again this would probably have more impact if it were performed in native tongue. I don’t know where the notion comes from that songs should be performed in English in order to break into the international market! First off, lyrics can be translated/printed in any accompanying CD booklet. Secondly, not singing in English only adds to the mystique of exotic and folk-inspired music. I’m not suggesting that band’s like Zdob si Zdue should remain stuck in a musical past, of course not. They sure prove on this album that they are a thoroughly modern band by adding modern instruments and modern hip-hop to traditional ones, and that’s all fine.
Language debate aside, the album contains some killer tracks – for example, ‘Gypsy Life’. Wicked rhythm, with Roman asking, “What city what country is this stage I am on?”
‘Eternal Kiss’ is a very cheerful tune, despite its love/death theme – one wonders whether this kiss takes place in the afterlife, or whether indeed the undead have something to do with it.
The lyrics of ‘We Are Free’ doubtlessly serve as a metaphor for a political message (“Black hell I escaped from / deep underground / came into the bright sun / that dreams haven’t bound”). Great track, with some jazzy undertones. Unfortunately, this can’t be said for ‘Good Bye’ – the female rap chant somehow doesn’t really go with the general slow pace of the song. Probably my least favourite track on the album.
Title track ‘Basta Mafia!’ kicks off with Spanish flamenco beats but quickly drifts into Eastern European gypsy ska-punk complete with trumpets and a male backing vocals. Everything is right about this number, no wonder it’s the title track!
As for the Eurovision song contester ‘So Lucky’, it’s a crowning closing number despite it being track 13… Full of vibrant energy and Beastie Boys style chanting, this is another one of my favourites and perfect to get any party going.
This album moves with ease and with convertible breeze.
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