Beirut, a Santa-Fe born and Brooklyn-based band fronted by 20 year old Zach Condon is getting quite a bit of attention lately, having released its first album, The Gulag Orkestar, in May. Condon traipsed about Europe before writing the album, and its sound is most definately influenced by Eastern European brass bands and Balkan folk music. Note several track titles: Pretzlauerburg, Mount Wroclai (idle days), The Bunker, After the Curtain, Bandenburg.
Though the band’s name is beyond awkward at this point, several of their tracks are quite rousing (I prefer Rhineland (Heartland) at the moment). Bowdy, and off a bit, like a drunken dawn. I’m liking some of it, and also looking at this band as a product of the ongoing and ever-growing cultural obsession with German, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern cities among young, American artistic-types. One has only to “bunker down” in an East Berlin youth hostel or hop a train to Prague in order to witness the phenomenon of American cultural production abroad (along with visual, literary, and musical appropriation on the home front). How many grants can DAAD hand out!? (And where’s mine, anyway?)
Have a listen:
Zach Condon, as featured in a Village Voice piece by Michael Crumsho on June 5th, 2006. Photo courtesy Ben Goldberg
Young Condron on the band’s name, as quoted in a recent New York Metro review:
“You know, it’s ironic,” he says, addressing the “Beirut situation” before a rehearsal in his Bushwick loft… “One of the reasons I named the band after that city was the fact that it’s seen a lot of conflict. It’s not a political position. I worried about that from the beginning. But it was such a catchy name. I mean, if things go down that are truly horrible, I’ll change it. But not now. It’s still a good analogy for my music. I haven’t been to Beirut, but I imagine it as this chic urban city surrounded by the ancient Muslim world. The place where things collide.”
Note to Zach: Do you consider the situation in Lebanon as “truly terrible” enough yet?