Elegant composition is lost on our dumb generation. When was the last time you heard Kanye West orchestrate the equivalent of an entire Bavarian marching band single-handedly into a coherent tune that’s both catchy and just hipster enough that plaid-wearing fixie-riders would love it? Thankfully Beirut’s Zach Condon’s influences range from USSR-era waltz to modern day electronica, and all the while inherently classical European compositional traditions blast through.
Since Condon began the solo venture in 2006 with the release of Gulag Orkestar, the project has flourished into a venerable six-person band and moved away from Tarantino score-esque tracks and into indie-dance-folk land. Sad, really, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still hear the beautiful, traditional compositions of Orkestar and Flying Club Cup at a live show. Don’t get me wrong, the group’s record March of the Zapotec was still incredible, howling indie-folk for a larger audience, it just didn’t have that same war-torn Europe feel that we all fell in love with back when “Nantes” was released. Maybe I’m just stuck in the past.
The gratuitous use of horns, ukulele, accordion and snare drum are still ever present on the group’s latest record The Rip Tide. These instruments constitute Condon’s domain, and it’s nice to hear that he’s found a balance between that dancer-pleasing electronica and hipster-kerfuffling traditionalism. Beirut is now poised to please as many people as possible — those older fans and those folks that cut their Beirut teeth with the pop — and that’s exactly what the group will continue to do, no doubt, until the memories of old Europe fade and their fingers are withered from playing accordions and synthesizers, quite adeptly, I might add, on every record from here to eternity.
Beirut & Menomena play 8 pm Thursday, Sept. 6, at McDonald Theatre; $32.50 adv., $35 door.