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CD Review
Gulag Orkestar  
Ba Da Bing!  
out of 10
Reviewed by Brent Sallay  

Don't let that album title scare you. Or the band name. Or the 24 hour news networks telling you this album will give your babies guns and teach them to use them. Beirut's Gulag Orkestar couldn't be any more American. And also, the 24-hour news networks are too busy talking about Brangelamibiababy. (I'm not sure what that is, but I think it ate Mothra once.)

Consider the band itself: Beirut isn't a bunch of scary guys from, um, Iraq (that's where Beirut is, isn't it?). It's really just friendly Midwestern crooner Zach Condon, an agreeable lad of only 19 (not a draft dodger, I might add), who wears red, white and blue wherever he goes and has like five of those “Support Our Troops” ribbons on his bumper. (Admit it—you only have two.) I assume.

Consider the band's label, Ba Da Bing!: What could be more American than a label named after Tony Soprano's base of operations, where capitalism is truly born and the girls always wear an inviting smile?

Consider the band's sound: On the surface, Beirut may sound like it came from one of those Axis of Evil countries, what with all the horns, tambourines, ukeleles and the like. But keep in mind, you can't hide a bomb in a tambourine. (Trust me.) Plus, it's not like Beirut is the first American band to crank a few instruments out of their ushankas (thanks,!). Anyone remember Neutral Milk Hotel? Oh yeah. Did I mention Jeremy Barnes (formerly of NMH) plays on this album? Coincidence? Hardly.

But most importantly, consider this album's dedication to greatness—a market truly cornered by the good ol' US of A. Consider the insistent “Prenzlaurberg,” the near-perfect “Postcards from Italy” or “Scenic World,” the best Magnetic Fields song since two Magnetic Fields albums ago.

In fact, I predict that in 25 years, this album will be considered an old underground classic, not unlike NMH's seminal In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (though I must admit, it's not quite that great), and that the Beirutians will greet us as liberators. That is, assuming we're out of Iraq by then. Which we of course will not be.

Go troops!



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