December 2007

Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
Ba Da Bing 055
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ***
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Eight individual musicians collaborate to create the symphonic orchestrations of the band Beirut. Their latest album, The Flying Club Cup, is a swirl of Balkan brass, Klezmer and folk that calls to mind an array of fanciful images. The perfect soundtrack for a Spanish bullfight, queen’s beheading or gondola ride, the music is awash with a joyful sort of melancholy and transports the listener instantly back to the Old World. Picture yourself at a romantic Parisian café or a hot-air-balloon festival, or watching a circus bear dance with grace; what sounds would you hear opening a dusty, old music box or prying the iron doors of a long-forgotten secret garden? The sounds of Beirut, non? Oui.

Curiously enough, most of the musicians creating this Eastern European sound call America their homeland, and not a single one is of gypsy blood. Even more curious, the band’s leader, Zach Condon, is a 21-year-old Santa Fe native and high school dropout. Nonetheless, the effect is charming and convincing. Utilizing instruments such as accordion, ukulele, euphonium and flugelhorn, and aided by the inexpert, operatic, almost comedic vocals of Condon, the end result is somewhat sloppy yet entirely beguiling. And while the band’s playing is playfully loose, the recording quality is expertly balanced and smooth.

Could this be a sign of the comeback of Klezmer? A new era of the Old World? Is the glockenspiel really hip these days? Peut-être.