Thursday, March 10, 2011



Back in the 80's, The Pogues revitalized traditional Irish music by adding the abandon of punk. Now it's hard to imagine modern Irish without a bit of rock in it at least. Much the same has happened to klezmer music, thanks to folks like Vancouver's Geoff Berner. It's not a revival of this Eastern European Jewish music now, it's the way it is.

Berner teams up with hip-hop/klezmer artist Socalled for his latest, which is also his most radical. With Socalled as producer, the pair are loudly saying this music isn't a novelty, it's representative of a strong voice in Jewish culture. It's in-your-face, not with old school Fiddler On The Roof-isms, but today's young, loud and snotty crowd. The music is for drinkers, the stories are rowdy and sometimes violent, even controversial. Laughing Jackie The Pimp is a thug, who gets paid back for his violence to women by the Russian mob. And in Daloy Polizei, well, wait until the NYPD get ahold of these lyrics. Remember the big stink about NWA's 1988 song Fuck Tha Police? Geez, they even turned against Springsteen for his American Skin (41 Shots). I wonder how they'll feel about "Out of your house, Into the streets/Everybody say, Fuck The Police"?

Accordian, violin, and clarinet meets sampled beats, electric guitar and shouting. Yet it remains distinctive, there's no hint of Berner's music being pushed into today for some trendy world music fans. Nor does seem old fashioned. A few more artists and albums like this, and you're going to be starting up a klezmer playlist on your iPod.

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