It would seem that everybody has been going totally crazy for
Enough has been said already about the fact that
Of course, this ‘style as substance’ approach was never going to have enduring appeal. The arrangements were lush and fascinating, the voice was suitably melancholic, the atmosphere mysterious and boozily European, but there were few engaging melodies or lyrics. Sometimes Condon showed flashes of interest in song-writing, the irresistibly catchy Postcards from Italy or Elephant Gun were little slices of pop in what otherwise could be a surprisingly difficult album (the sound certainly wasn’t for everyone), whilst Idle Days (Mount Wroclai) showed that the boy could write decent words, despite an expressed disinterest in them. The problem was, though, that Gulag Orkestar was too tied up in the importance of its arrangements to provide any lasting tunes, and so it blurred into one lovely, hazy atmosphere rather than a collection of Balkan-flavoured songs.
And this brings us to the new album, The Flying Club Cup, a record supposedly influenced by French chansons in the same way that its predecessor was influenced by Balkan gypsies. The problem is the French influence doesn’t really appear. Fleeting glimpses of it are caught in repeated listens: snatches of French dialogue, Gallic inflections, but really this is just Gulag Orkestar Part II – only with even fewer tunes. There, after a gigantic preamble I’ve dismissed the fucking thing in three sentences. There is a saving grace though, the gorgeous Guaymas Sonora, still Balkan tinged, but impossible beautiful. Gorgeous string arrangements (I believe provided by string arranger du jour, Owen Pallett), glockenspiel, yearning vocals and a lilting melody combine to make you long to be wandering down the Left Bank, hand in hand with some beautiful, chain smoking girl who you want to be with but know deep down you don’t really love. The type that smiles at you condescendingly, saying “You’re not really good enough for me”, but kisses you back anyway. The type who inspires the lust where you get drunk and just stare across the table of the café-bar and shake your head as a single tear drips down your face, and maybe hers too. The sort of girl who drives you from the analytical towards over-cleverness and Sixth Form poetry that you know is clichéd, but is kind of arrogantly beautiful anyway.