- The Industrial Revolution (And How It Ruined My Life)
- Robber Baron
- Stakes and Torches
- Happy Birthday (My Olde Friend)
- Coin Operated Goi
- Accordion Player
- This Sea
- The Beast of Pirate’s Bay
- This Ship’s Going Down
- To the Bottom of the Sea
- Death Death (Devil, Devil, Evil, Evil Song)
After 10 years of releasing CDs through Projekt Records, Voltaire embarks on his first self-released studio album. And what a journey it is! Somewhere between concept record and full-blown musical, To The Bottom of the Sea tells the tale of a gypsy tinker and his tumultuous journey from his homeland in the mountains of Vorutania, to a watery grave at the ocean depths.
Back are Voltaire’s signature gypsy violins and celtic rhythms (provided by long-time mates Kitzis, Goeke and Sorino). But new to the line-up is an accordion player, Franz Nicolay (World Inferno Friendship Society, The Hold Steady, Guignol) that catapults each track clean into the realm of gypsy punk (and piratey sea shanties on the second half of the disc). Also guesting on this CD is a cadre of all-stars from the gypsy punk scene including Johnny Kalsi (Firewater, The Dhol Foundation) on percussion, Ruet Regev (Firewater) on trombone, and Luminescent Orchestrii string players Sarah Alden and Rima Fand. The result is a turn-of-the-century romp sure to delight pirates, Steampunks and gypsies.
The CD opens up with a Billy Bragg-styled anthem in which our narrator explains how the Industrial Revolution is responsible for the homogenization of our culture. This kicks off a flash back to a turn-of-the-century, Eastern block country called Vorutania where our gypsy tinker and his mates revolt against the evil Robber Baron who tyrannically lords over them. Hints and nods to Gogol Bordello are evident as the peasants rise up and later celebrate drunkenly through the next few tracks of unbridled debauchery. In a mid-CD highlight, Voltaire winks at his colleagues The Dresden Dolls with a hilarious parody of “Coin Operated Boy” titled “Coin Operated Goi” (sung in a Yiddish accent, no less!) But alas, like in any good debauched anarchy, the power void leads to the inevitable war. This ushers in a coupling of somber tracks where Voltaire’s voice, in a more intimate setting, takes on a low, smoky growl reminiscent of Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave. Our protagonist tells his wife (sung by Polish chanteuse, Julia Marcell) that he must seek his fortune at sea. This lush and lyrical duet gives way to the second half of the CD in which our anti-hero sets out to sea and bring us all along for the voyage. Along the way are sea shanties, a rousing belly-dancing track and some Tom Waits-inspired dirges and romps. The closing track is a classic Voltaire skewering of society in which our narrator, back in the present day, explains why all of his tales must end so morbidly.
Voltaire’s myspace page has long described himself as a “Renaissance man with Gypsy pirate band”. That characterization has never been as true as it is on To The Bottom of the Sea. His 6th release really delivers the goods.