Over the last few years, few bands have had it tougher than Oi Va Voi.
Back in 2003 the London-based genre-benders looked to be a on a straight road to success. Their album, Laughter Through Tears, was causing worldwide ripples, having wed the flair of Jewish klezmer music with brazen mainstream beats.
And then, without warning, it all fell apart.
First, the band was tossed aside by guest vocalist K.T. Tunstall - a departure which ripped the heart from their live show. With their time dominated by scouring the country for a suitable vocalist, Oi Va Voi started to lose sight of their goals.
And then came the bitter fall-outs and the illnesses. Before long, Oi Va Voi had completely slipped from the mainstream radar.
So perhaps after such a turbulent time, recording an album alone should be applauded as an achievement - but I'm afraid I just can't be that optimistic about their self-titled sophomore effort, Oi Va Voi.
Compared to its bittersweet predecessor - and its magical way of being culturally intriguing yet instantly accessible - this album can hardly stand up.
By comparison, it's deflated and cheerless. Rather than tickling our emotions, it tries limply to placate us with dreary-eyed, ethereal-tinged rock. Each track seems spiritless and formulaic, with only new single ''Yuri'' - a frenzied and playfully anachronistic slice of industrial-klezmer - making any real impact.
Listening to this album, there's a conclusion which can't be avoided: something has torn a gaping hole in the rich tapestry of Oi Va Voi. Having parted with K.T. Tunstall, some might have predicted as much. What they won't have foreseen is just how big the hole is. The struggle goes on. --Robert Jackman
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