The Flying Club Cup
BA DA BING (2007)
“Well, it’s been a long time, long time now. Since I’ve seen you smile,” wails Zach Condon’s vibrato on “Nantes”, the second track off the latest Beirut LP. Though officially released October 9th, the record has already taken off via internet leak, live tour, and an album website with videos shot by Vincent Moon for each track (theflyingclubcup.com). The audio, live, and video versions of The Flying Club Cup are all impressive, making this autumn a jubilant one even if we’re still withstanding the oppressive summer swelter.
9 / 10
Obsessions for bands and their music do not occur often for me, but I believe that’s what I yearn for when listening to new music incessantly. After talking with a few fellow fans, it seems Beirut has captured many with their matchless style, majestic orchestration, and enigmatic story, making it seem like their music is both revolutionary and extraordinary.
I was fortunate enough to catch Beirut a couple weeks ago as part of the Wordless Concert Series here in New York City. The series is now in its second season of existence and is an incredibly novel idea. Set in various places of worship around Manhattan, the fundamental concept is bridging classical composition with avant-garde music of today. Beirut kick started The Flying Club Cup tour at the Fort Greene Masonic Temple on September 20th in the second show of this season’s Wordless and the first ever in Brooklyn.
Zach Condon, leading an eight-piece ensemble, could not hide his sincere insecurity upon taking the stage at a venue that felt more like a high school auditorium than a place for religious activities. “Please, feel free to stand,” he said to the all-seated crowd, trying to shake the anxiety. It did take him a track or two, but within minutes he would have a sea of kids up and dancing below him and the tension would be washed from the twenty-year old’s face.
I only started listening to Beirut a couple of months ago, soon realizing not just the brilliance in their sound, but the mysticism and intrigue behind the frontman. Condon is truly a wunderkind from Albuquerque who recorded his first record at age 15. This unreleased project called “The Real People” was only burned for friends but has since found its way to acclaim. Essentially a synthpop album, Condon says it was truly inspired by The Magnetic Fields.
Influences are constantly evolving as Beirut’s first LP, Gulag Orkestar, stenches in the multi-instrumentalism of Balkan gypsy folk music that Condon found after dropping out of school and hanging out in Paris for four months. In The Flying Club Cup, we still hear the accordion, ukulele, tambourine, brass, and violin, but he steers more towards a French orchestral pop feel for this record. Apparently, each song is meant to denote a particular French city.
So with splash of progression and an innovative motif, Beirut keep their beautiful arrangements drenched in a nostalgia that sets them apart from any other band under the independent rock umbrella. Hearing it live, the songs sounded slightly repetitive and the structuring was predictable. There were also a number of occasions in which the components didn’t harmonize. For Condon’s crooning voice to roll on key with the horn section and for the rest of the ensemble to blaze in correctly might be a complicated feat to conquer. It just seemed like the band had not rehearsed enough, as was gloriously displayed when a riff wasn’t strummed correctly and the band paused, laughed, and then started the wondrous new “Cliquot” over again.
But there were enough exhilarating moments during the grandiose performance that made me feel that Beirut are something epic right now and I don’t use that word often. They definitely nailed the hits “Postcards from Italy” and “Elephant Gun”, while new songs like “In the Mausoleum” and “A Sunday Smile” were fresh and gorgeous. Indeed, I left the show and have been listening to Beirut ever since, singing uninhibited on the sidewalks of Gotham, from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The Flying Club Cup will certainly be in my top five records of this year. Enough said.