Zach Condon, Beirut's 21-year-old frontman, is too young to have any stories of his own. So he imagines other folks' — and 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 Saint 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 like this doesn't have much to offer, but Beirut's lush orchestrations do, and The Flying Club Cup, the band's sophomore album, 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 uses the more delicate French chanson, 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 lyrically anemic as Gulag. Condon's main problem seems to be success at a young age; his stories don't offer the substantive sorrow for which their melodies cry out.
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