Geoff Berner and his furious amalgam of Klezmer and punk, is what. He’s storming in solo with his accordion from British Columbia like an arctic heat wave. Where he once was a candidate for the Green Party and a legendary spokesman for a variety of fine whiskies. Still is. His first album was «We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians». (This was said also by the donkey in the Brother’s Grimm tale Die Bremen Stadtmusikanten? Remember, the dog piling on top of the donkey, the cat on top of the dog and the rooster on top of the cat?) Geoff has also written and published a book with the same title and it offers «a very euphoric medicine for which you won’t have to switch off your brain.»
Berner’s career is hair-raising astonishing. He doesn’t have many left but for one thing he’s been continuously on tour since 2003, solo and with Kaizers Orchestra, Billy Bragg and Balkan Beat Box. Take that, Bob Dylan. And he’s been a tireless champion for Klezmer but «I make my own Klezmer – drunken, dirty, political and passionate. I’m a Jew with Eastern European roots and I view it as my responsibility to keep this music alive and not to see it put behind glass in a museum.» Self-depreciating he calls his work «Jewish-Canadian drinking songs» but they’re camouflaged vehicles for some pretty uncompromising and subversive lyrics. But wait, «My listeners are predominantly well-read bookworms who like a drink, among them also a surprising number of physics professors», he confesses. They’re probably also taken by his alternatively mellow and soft-braking and then furious firebrand voice. A unique squeezing and cajoling of the accordion supplies the musical background to these fine sonic shenanigans.
Switch your brain on or off for this unique artist. Mazel tov!
«We’re all trying to put out a vision of Jewish culture that’s the opposite of the conservative, kneejerk pro-Israel judgmental bullshit that’s emerged in recent decades.» – Geoff Berner