Beirut – [Album]

Monday, 08 October 2007

I’m reminded of the classic Married with Children episode: episode 0622 titled “The Good-Bye Girl.” Situated in front of his television set and encased between two wooden barricades was the alpha male himself, Al Bundy. Imagining his very own Parisian getaway, Bundy had it all: suitcase to his left, a glass of red wine to the right and most of all, a blue beret up on top. It seemed Bundy was having the time of his life, and a French film helped visualize the excursion. And with hand in pants (midway of course), he seemed ready to go.

I may never be a man like Bundy, but at least we can share a similar “we’ll always have Paris” moment. And while it was Goddard and Truffaut for Bundy, it was Zach Condon of Beirut for me. The 21-year-old Santa Fe wunderkind first impressed critics and indie audiences alike with Gulag Orkestar and its multitude of trumpets and ukuleles, and really Condon’s strongest instrument: his voice. Now for his sophomore release, The Flying Club Cup, the debut caravan of Balkan-inspired melodies have for now been foregone, replaced by classical French pop that still has the boy wonder carrying his trumpet and ukulele, but also a bit of accordion, organ and French horn.

Having been inspired by a photo depicting hot air balloons embarking down The City of Light, The Flying Club Cup is an exquisite up swell of highly crafted arrangements that signals the emergence of Condon as one of the leading talents within the oh-so-very-young but makes for a really impressive music demographic.

Now working with an eight-piece band, the effects of Condon not having to record solo in his own room shows as drum machines are now clattering drums and just simplistic ukulele strums are sweeping Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) string sections. Look no further than “Nantes,” as an eccentric organ guides Condon, his voice alone shines with its ability to be both subtle in its nuances but still managing to project an effortless power. And like Gulag Orkestar, it seems that Condon would rather focus heavily on the melodies and arrangements then say the lyrics, but it’s really of little importance if he can continually hit the appropriate spots and mood points as “A Sunday Smile,” an utter triumph, begins as a French waltz but cascades blissfully into a bright chorus that feels like one of The Flying Club Cup’s primary inspirations: a trip on a hot air balloon.

Between bar-room-soaked choirs (“The Penalty”) to again being idle with just his ukulele and octaves galore (“Forks and Knives (La Fete)”) it’s extraordinary to note the talent that’s often displayed. Relishing in something so charming as “In the Mausoleum,” is just an added treat as whimsical strings and harmonious horns merge toward a romantic frolic. That’s not to say though that Condon cannot be direct, as the travelogue makes a slightly turbulent but safe landing with “The Flying Club Cup,” Condon again stretches his voice as he engages on a hypnotic swan song where only then the ukulele to his right and the trumpet to his left descend ceremoniously.
One does wonder if Condon will make this into an endless project (ala the dude that was last seen in Illinois): repeatedly hitting various European provinces, fully inspired by the wealth of musical riches and thereby fashioning something original. Rest assured many would not frown upon the young Mr. Condon if ever he decides to make a polka accented record.

The Flying Cup Club is out October 9 on Ba Da Bing.

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