Washington Post, Friday, August 25, 2006; Page WE08
GOLEM "Fresh Off Boat" J-Dub
THE FIRST TASTE of klezmer music can be a revelation: It has such soul, such jazz -- it's foreign yet, via pop culture and the collective subconscious, it's deeply familiar. When a blue-haired New York indie kid named Annette Ezekiel rediscovered the music of her own heritage, it's no wonder she took to it. And it's no wonder that Golem, the group she founded, makes music that's so immediately accessible.
"Ushti Baba," "Fresh Off Boat's" opening track, kicks off with an accordion and trombone intro, followed by Yiddish singing. But the drums offer a hyper-quick, club-style pulse. That bass is pretty funky, and the violin's wail is so high and reedy that it sounds like that horror-flick staple, the theremin. And the manic gargle/warble of Aaron Diskin will stir deep feelings of nostalgia in anyone who has attended a Pere Ubu concert.
Where's the line between tradition and pop? Golem plays like it doesn't matter, with vigor and sometimes cheeky melodrama. "Golem Hora," with Lenny Kaye on guitar and Mike Gordon on bass, is the least traditional track, even as it boasts a familiar tune, to which Diskin sings, "Have-a-tequila . . ." and then begs agitatedly, "Where is the lime and salt?"
"Warsaw Is Khelm," sung in English by Diskin and Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, tells of a man who leaves home for Warsaw but accidentally ends up back in his home town, which he then sees through fresh eyes. It's a sort of metaphor for the music: Is Golem, now playing clubs and sold for its "punk-rock sensibility," Warsaw or Khelm, hipster discovery or ageless party fare? Either way, it's as captivating as that first margarita.
-- Pamela Murray Winters