Eleven years after Weddings, Barmitzvahs and Funerals, comes Never Mind the Balkans, an album delivered in a sleeve that bears a canny resemblance to another very famous record. Whether or not this latest album from the fun-loving Max Pashm hopes to be as iconoclastic as the Sex Pistols’ début wasn’t, remains to be seen. What is certain, however, is that the music that Pashm describes as ‘KlezmerBalkanGreekGypsyPunk with electro beats’ is entering a Klezmer market that is at saturation point. Does Pashm have what it takes to pull ahead of the Klezmatics, Balkan Beatbox, Oi Va Voi or the exuberant theatricalities of Gogol Bordello?
Only time will tell. But in its favour, Never Mind the Balkans goes on at quite a lick. Pashm’s band – a judicious mixture of Greek, Jewish and Balkan musicians – belt along with brass, baglamas, woodwind and lyres at their disposal. His vocalists make some thrilling interjections, but this isn’t an album that’s lyric heavy. Pashm, as on his previous album, layers on the digital beats, fades and phases tracks in and out and generally DJs the whole affair with a pleasing verve. There is an amount of self-mythologizing present, as the MC-esque introduction makes clear – in tones that won’t be out of place in any Madness song (remember all those ‘One step beyond!’ calls?) of yesteryear.