- Audio CD (Oct. 2 2007)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Revolver / Ba Da Bing!
- ASIN: B000UJ48XG
- In-Print Editions: Audio CD | LP Record
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,190 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
The Flying Club Cup
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Japanese enhanced pressing of the 2007 album from Beirut (AKA Zach Condon) features three bonus enhanced tracks: 'Nantes', 'A Sunday Smile' and 'Cherbourg'. Six months of recording has led to The Flying Club Cup, an homage to France's culture, fashion, history, and music. Two years ago, Condon immersed himself in Balkan folk, absorbed sounds, scales, styles, and the sonic joys of a skeletally structured, cacophonic ensemble - and moved west. Soaking up the likes of Francois Hardy, Charles Aznavour, and, most notably, Jacques Brel (a huge influence on both Scott Walker and Mark E. Smith), Condon has been articulating his conversational French. Warner.
Beirut's second LP purportedly takes inspiration from French chanson of yesteryear (as opposed to the Balkan folk of yesteryear). Bandleader Zach Condon has found a new home in Paris, and a new muse as well, quickly absorbing fodder from the likes of Francois Hardy or Jacques Brel. The music remains quite recognizably Beirut--in all its oom-pa glory--but the production value is stepped up a notch. It's through the dense arrangements that it reaches new heights, this without question being the fullest offering yet. The band appeared on Owen Pallet's (Final Fantasy/Arcade Fire) new album in exchange for the use of Arcade Fire's Masonic church studio, along with the exotic pile of instruments within. Pallet ended up contributing several string arrangements and the band made full use of the studio. The result is a truly orchestral take on the simpler gypsy stomp of Gulag Orkestar or the straight-up eight-piece live band of the Lon Gisland EP. Opener "Nantes" features a perfectly broken organ and introduces the wealth of percussion that continues throughout the album, as well as some samples of French TV or radio (the most explicit Franco-features are these sampled tidbits). Waltzing glockenspiels give way to a celebratory, raucous chorus on "La Banlieu." "Un Dernier Verre" features a skittering, jazzy piano bit (in 3/4 time, natch). The Flying Club Cup lacks the immediate hits that made Gulag Orkestar explode (like "Postcards from Italy" or "Mount Wroclai"). It works as an album rather than just a collection of songs. It's a more pensive presentation--dare I say it: more mature. Beirut remains mind-boggling work for a 21-year-old, and it's exciting to watch Condon's musical palette expand as he gathers the life experience to match his voice. --Jason Pace
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And though "The Flying Club Cup" has a more modern flavour to some of its songs, the feeling of wistful, melancholy nostalgia still hangs heavily over these exquisitely orchestrated pop tunes. Think early twentieth-century France, as seen through sepia photographs and a band's sad tunes.
It opens with a haunting chorus of wailing horns, before switching to the smooth, swaying melody of "Nantes." Condon sings mournfully, "Well it's been a long time/long time now/since I've seen you smile/and I'll gamble away my fright... and in a year, a year or so/this will slip into the sea..."
It's much the same throughout the remaining songs, which tend to be bittersweet in tone, with a backdrop of horns and stately pop rhythms. Mellow dance tunes, Eastern European marches, mournful accordion-piano ballads, and pretty folky tunes. Not to mention, of course, combinations of all of the above.
In the second half, we're even graced with some upbeat songs -- the twittering violin and swirling melody of "In The Mausoleum." And the sprightliest music on the album is "Un Dernier Verre (Pour La Route)," a peppy pop tune that sounds like something Snoopy would dance to as the World War I flying ace.
If I were to compare Condon and Beirut to any other artist, it would probably be Sufjan Stevens -- polished, multilayered music with rich vocals. But the music of "The Flying Club Cup" is all nostalgia, bittersweet and weariness, mingled with a rich, over-the-top quality. It's so much BIGGER than Beirut's past work -- in sound, in scope, in feeling.
Not to mention that the sound here is a bit less Balkan -- think electro-indie mingled with vintage pop melodies, then filtered through an old French radio. Lots of mellow accordion, mingled brass, rattling drums and tambourine, an acoustic guitar, some twittery fiddle melodies and a nimble, energetic piano. Here are there, a gentle layer of keyboard is laid over it all.
Condon's voice is the clincher -- this guy is not only a great musician, but he has a smooth, rich voice that slides through the music like a satin ribbon. And his songs are evocative and stirring ("A plague on the workhouse!"), with plenty of feeling ("what melody will lead my lover from his bed?/What melody will see him in my arms again?").
Beirut's second album is a stunning artistic triumph, draped in classic melodies, exquisite songwriting and sweeping instrumentation. "The Flying Club Cup" flies on its own.
On the latter Condon's whimsically named band worked up their rhythmic clangour with the help of borrowings from Balkan gipsy brass. I don't mean Slavic street theatre like Gogol Bordello, but the more subtle approach of bands such Kocani Orkestar, from Macedonia.
On the CD -- recorded at his parents' house in New Mexico -- Zach Condon sounded like a pretentious trust-fund boy gatecrashing an Emir Kusturica film set, but there was no doubting his talent. By the end of the year, Beirut had become one of the most compelling bands around.
Having rambled through lo-fi electronica, doo-wop and Balkan folk music, Zach now attempts to conjure a feel of France in an album inspired by an old photo of hot air balloonists setting off from the Eiffel Tower.
The horns and fiddles remain but now Beirut seem fuelled by vin rouge and absinthe as Condon's muse moves on to France.
The gusto with which he tackles his theme is infectious, and it is hard to be cynical when the clichés come packaged so elegantly.
Queasy accordions, fruity brass and rustic percussion do the job nicely, but this is an album of wispy moods and atmospheres rather than a collection of songs you could really take to your heart.
Wary of accusations of being a mere pastiche merchant, this time France being the theme -- at least he has lived in Paris -- this means waltzing accordions and horns, plucked strings and Condon's tremulous voice , a dramatic, stirring sound that is miles away from anything else coming out of the North American indie scene.
Because a piano accompanies the ballad "Un Dernier Verre" and because Condon has expressed admiration for Jacques Brel, some American fans think "The Flying Club Cup" a portrait of France or, more dimly, "Europe".
This is a misapprehension.
Condon picks up traditional elements and remakes them.
If you cram an accordion, guitar, violin, double bass, drums and three pieces of brass into a narrow stairwell, as Zach Condon does in the video for "Nantes", the term "layered" is inadequate to describe the consequent sound.
The tense piano loops of "In The Mausoleum" and fluttering flutes of the title track stand out on an album that entirely succeeds in its goal of whisking the listener to an enticing new places.
My highlights : "Nantes", "In The Mausoleum", "The Flying Club Cup" and "Le Banlieu".
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I do want to say that when I first heard Beirut it really took me awhile to get into Zach Condon's vibratic singing style. If you don't like it--honestly I'm not surprised. Try listening to it as another instrument in the band and don't focus on it too closely, and give his voice a chance to grow on you--you wont regret it. If you really can't stand the style, well as my mother says "there's no accounting for taste."
The whole album is a kind of ear caress, which explores simple harmony and delicate lyrics with beautiful strings and brass arrangements making an old new sound. I call it an old new sound, because The Flying Club Cup sounds at the same time those old tunes our grandparents used to hear in a square or ballroom, but also sounds new as the strong vocals of Condon sets an alternative to the current mainstream music. With Beirut, we can say that melody is back to music, and is back to stay.
The album gathers influence from East European, French, Gipsy and Mexican songs, making an unique combination inspiring the listener to hear from beginning to end. Of course there are top songs, that may become one's favorite, but listening with attention, there is no bad songs at all.
People who likes Folk Music, Alternative Pop & Rock, or even Tradtional Music, should hear this album with attention and care, and I'm sure they will enjoy!