Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
Forks And Knives
Unlike most everyone else out there, I wasn’t especially taken with Beirut’s 2006 debut Gulag Orkestar. I don’t have any hard, specific reasons but if pressed, I’d say that while I found the Gypsy/Balkan orchestra aesthetic novel, with a couple exceptions it seemed to be more about sound than song and anyways I am inherently prejudiced against wunderkinds, as the teenaged Zach Condon obviously was. They always remind me of how little I’ve accomplished in my life. Anyway, I gave the record a few listens and moved on.
Fast forward to this past March and their 4AD showcase at SxSW, which was a gloriously ramshackle event that gave me a glimpse of what everyone else was seeing in the band – now fully a band and not just a Zach Condon solo project. After returning home, I revisited Gulag Orkestar and while I took to it more warmly, it still didn’t make it into any sort of heavy rotation.
Skip ahead yet again to just a few weeks ago, when the folks from Le Blogotheque asked me to do a write-up for one of the videos they’d shot for each of the songs on the new Beirut record The Flying Club Cup, out today. Hosted at www.flyingclubcup.com, they shot a video, Take Away Shows-style, of Condon and cohorts performing each of the songs from the new record around Brooklyn and I was given a couple to choose from. One pass through “Forks And Knives” and I was sold. My commentary for the video is (uncharacteristically) brief but I was having so much fun watching the clip over and over again and really, it speaks for itself.
And perhaps that experience made me more favourably inclined towards the album but with it, I think I’m feeling what everyone else was over a year ago. Even though it’s still much the same recipe as Gulag, it simply sounds so much more cohesive and alive than its predecessor. I would credit much of that to the fact that Beirut is now a full and proper band rather than Condon on his own and recorded the record as such – there’s just no replacing the chemistry of musicians playing together, especially ones who’ve been forged into a cohesive unit from relentless touring. Additionally, the songwriting just seems stronger, with the orchestration now serving the song rather than the other way around, which was the impression I got from Gulag.
In short – Beirut? I get it now. And I’m giving Gulag Orkestar one more go-around.
Also from the Blogotheque – a Takeaway Show with St Vincent. Only en Francais for now (et maintenant en Anglais), but St Vincent is the universal language, n’est pas? And while you’re basking in live vids of Annie Clark, My Old Kentucky Blog has a vid of her performance at Hot Freaks in Austin a few weeks ago. There’s another Takeaway Show with Elvis Perkins, in town at the Horseshoe on November 28.
Wilco have made some more goodies available in their Roadcase – streams of their shows in Edmonton on August 18 and Berkeley, California on August 24. And note that their Austin City Limits session (which I attended last month) will be airing on PBS the week of November 3, specific day contingent on whenever your local PBS affiliate airs the show. And instead of the usual half-hour segment that most bands get on the show, Wilco will get the whole hour which means that the wonderfully botched version of “Too Far Apart” may well see the light of day! I can’t wait. And the Arcade Fire episode will air the following week, also an hour-long.
Also out today – Cease To Begin from Band Of Horses, who talk to The State about the decision to license the use of their songs in commercials. They’re at the Phoenix on November 9. And you can stream both the Horses and Lekman albums at Spinner.
And finally, all of Voxtrot’s Canadian shows – aka the ones I was giving away prizes for – have been cancelled. This obviously includes the one scheduled for tonight at the Mod Club. Singer Ramesh Srivastava had some emergency surgery in Philadelphia the other night and while he’s going to be fine, they’ve elected not to cross the border. So my contest is moot and all shows are off. Best wishes to Ramesh for a quick recovery. Update: Concerts off, but contest still on. For Montreal and Ottawa, anyways. Click on the thingie to the right for details. Or scroll down. Whichever.