Bad Buka: Balkan Punk Rock At Its Most Intense
With Gogol Bordello on the road most of the year, Bad Buka are as close being to the ultimate party band in New York as there is these days. They also play Balkan punk rock, but they’re different. Gogol Bordello’s music draws from Ukrainian folk and, lately, reggae and dub. Bad Buka are a rock band first and foremost, with a mix of latin, Middle Eastern and Romany flavors, and also a little heavy metal swagger thrown in. Like Gogol Bordello, they don’t take themselves very seriously, but they take their music very, very seriously. Much as their songs can be droll and funny, they’re surreal rather than campy or over-the-top. Their explosive, balls-to-the-wall new album Through the Night is streaming at their Bandcamp page. They’re playing the album release show on Feb 7 at around 10 at Europa, the lovely Polish nightclub on Meserole Ave. in Greenpoint, for a ridiculously cheap $10.
The first song on the album is Demons. It sounds sort of like the UK Subs doing the Balkans until the brass comes in, then Kari Bethe’s sizzling, creepy Romany jazz violin followed by an equally sizzling trumpet solo from John Carlson. The guitars of Cooper and Christofer Lovrin take it from there. The second track, Pumping, is a ba-bump cabaret song done punk rock style: it’s funny, but it’s also got an eyeball-peeling guitar solo and spicy harmony vocals from Carla T and Lady Diana . After that, Stupid Cupid redeems the title from the cheeseball 50s bubblegum pop song with machinegun chromatic punk.
The funniest and most metal-oriented song is Bitter Sweet: frontman Slavko “EyeZy” Bosnjak sends a message to “Get the pants down from your eyes – you’ve got to drink from the cow!” They pick up the pace with I Choose, a mix of hardcore and ska-punk and then the menacing, brass-fueled Hey Now, whose breathless protagonist is waiting for a package from overseas…with vinyl in it maybe?
Elephant Police has an artsy metal edge – it’s hard to tell what it’s about, but there’s a big fist-pumping singalong on the phrase “under your dress you made a mess.” They follow that with the best song on the album, Coffee, a slinky Middle Eastern rock song with the guitars, brass and violin going full blast. Then they add a little bit of a tango feel to Sister Mary, right down to the fiery latin-tinged trumpet solo.
With its brisk swing and stark violin solo, Daj Daj is pronounced “die die,” which seems to explain the joke. The title track is the most dramatic, a big, blazing, full-on orchestrated minor-key Romany art-rock epic. The album ends up with one of those songs you know is designed to get a singalong going; it’s got some glam and some metal along with the darky bristling minor-keys and chromatics. Bad Buka are even more explosive than this live: if adrenaline is your thing, go see them at Europa.