Twenty-one-year-old Beirut frontman Zach Condon is too young to have any stories of his own, so he imagines other folks'—usually folks living on other continents in other centuries. On "The Penalty," he speaks from the perspective of a worker caught in a time of plague: "Yesterday fever, tomorrow St. Peter, I'll beat on my drum until then. What melody will lead my lover from his bed? What melody will see him in my arms again?" Narrative conjecture such as this doesn't have much to offer, but Beirut's lush orchestrations do, and The Flying Club Cup follows in predecessor Gulag Orkestar's brass-heavy, enchanting wake. Where Gulag invoked a rollicking, marching band sound and was blanketed with an accordion-heavy Eastern European influence, Cup invokes the more delicate French chanson music, accented by nylon-string guitar. Thankfully, Condon doesn't display his Magnetic Fields and Neutral Milk Hotel influences so strongly here, but otherwise Cup is as musically dynamic and lyrically anemic as Gulag. Condon's main problem seems to be success at a young age; his stories don't offer the substantive sorrow their melodies cry out for.
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