Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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**1/2

BEIRUT
The Flying Club Cup
Ba Da Bing

Gypsy-folk prodigy abandons Balkan Roma for comforts of Parisian chanson

In retrospect, it's obvious. Attracted though Santa Fe, New Mexico, prodigy Zach Condon may have been to the hyper-emotional voices of the Balkan Roma, he's not intense enough to share a style with Macedonian diva Esma Redzepova or Serbian outlaw Saban Bajramovic, whom he knows even if his alt-rock admirers don't. So here he moves his Beirut project west, to the tamer turf of Parisian chanson. The raucous Gypsy brass that gave Beirut's debut album and especially the Lon Gisland EP some jam, always tame in Condon's hands, is now muted or gone, with accordion, strings and various keyboards up front -- only not as far front as Condon, who leaves little doubt that the singer he most admires in the world is fellow Europhile Rufus Wainwright. Committed to romantic lyricism above all, Condon isn't quite the tunesmith to fully justify this passion, compensating with melismatic slurs and a Gallic disdain for consonants. These tics don't do much for lyrics he's clearly been working on. "Nantes" is suffused with regret. "Forks and Knives" wanders hither and yon. "Cliquot" summons healing melody. Like that.

Rolling Stone, Oct. 18, 2007