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Rhythm & Views

Beirut

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For The Flying Club Cup, Beirut's Zach Condon took inspiration from a 1910 photo of hot air balloons flying next to the Eiffel Tower. A couple of minutes into the first song, "A Call to Arms," sound clips from a French film slip in, and the songs are sprinkled with French words, history and places. The album was recorded at the Arcade Fire's studio, with lots of help from multi-instrumentalist Owen Pallett. Hence, the album sounds approximately French, and a lot like a loose interpretation of the Arcade Fire.

So The Flying Club Cup is French (save the one song titled "Guyamas Sonora," which we all know is definitely not French), while Beirut's first album, last year's Gulag Orkestar, appropriated Balkan folk music. It seems that this is Condon's project: to be a sort of musical colonialist.

The Flying Club Cup is wrought with romantic and nostalgic French sounds, like accordions and mournful laments ("What melody will lead my lover from his bed? What melody will see him in my arms again?" sings Condon on "Cliquot"), but it all seems overwrought and precious. Condon's vibrato attempts to mask the fact that his voice lacks emotional depth, and the songs sound intentionally sloppy, as if that's Condon's notion of a "foreign" aesthetic. Unlike DeVotchKa, to whom Beirut is constantly compared, Condon seems to be merely playing with cultural textures, which makes his music sound less like true artistic exploration and more like an ignorant, youthful obsession with difference.

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