Just as the Pogues hauled traditional Irish folk through the mud, blood and puke of the punk rock scene and wound up a fist-pumping ball of raw energy, the multilingual Eastern European party band Golem are making accordions rock again. Their blend of instruments—the aforementioned squeezebox, violin, trombone, upright bass and drums, plus occasional tambourine—pretty much ensures wildness both on stage and on record. Their ability to pump Gypsy, Jewish and Slavic folk songs full of hyper-caffeinated New York energy and attitude gives them an edge over even bands like Gogol Bordello or the various klezmer ensembles.
Frontwoman Annette Ezekiel—a dancer and multi-lingual speaker/singer (French, Italian, Yiddish, Russian and Ukrainian at last count)—keeps things rockin’ alongside co-vocalist Aaron Diskin at the band’s wild shows, which have found them opening for Hasidic reggae rapper Matisyahu and postmodern Goth cabaret duo the Dresden Dolls. They released their debut CD Homesick Songs on their own in 2004, but recently signed with the Jdub label (home of Balkan Beat Box and the outfit that gave Matisyahu his start) to issue their follow-up, Fresh Off Boat. They called in some musical favors to fill out the record’s sound; Dresden Dolls vocalist/keyboardist Amanda Palmer shows up, as does former Phish bassist Mike Gordon and Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye. Despite their overt nods to the immigrant experience (from the album title to the ancient songs they adapt), this is a band, and an album, that could only have come out of NYC.