Ow!/What's Wrong?/Oh, Just the Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Brief note on two bands.

An old friend of mine — he was one of these older, cooler guys who would hang around and dispense wisdom — is also a really brilliant musician, and a while ago he started playing semi-regularly with Zach Condon, the Generation Z genius behind Beirut. (I was thinking: Condon dropped out of high school. By celebrating Condon, do we celebrate dropping out of high school. I don’t think so. But what if a generation of youths dropped out of high school to become eccentric multi-instrumentalists obsessed with the musical traditions of the shtetl? This would be a new and pressing social problem that I don’t think we’re fully prepared to tackle, which is why I’ve called for $50 billion of stimulus money to address this looming crisis.)

Though I’m not naturally predisposed to like Beirut, because their music generally sounds as though it was made by humans rather than by robots, I’ve very much enjoyed their latest offering, March of the Zapotec. But actually, I really like what I think is Beirut’s alter ego, Realpeople. There’s this one song, “My Night With the Prostitute from Marseille,” that has inspired a multi-hour dance party in my house. (Here you go.) Wait — I think I like this song because it could have been made by a robot. So perhaps I don’t like Beirut in some deeper sense. This Orkestar business leaves me scratching my head. That said, I did very much enjoy seeing Beirut play live at BAM, though that could be because I was in excellent company. It’s very hard to disentangle these things. I’ll also note that Kaki King has a great quasi-Mongolian face. I really hope that the movie Mongol puts Mongolians on the map as people who are really, really cool, and as people who have strong legs. And who can handle lactose.

As part of my ongoing project of supporting Asian Americans in indie rock and other popular genres, I saw Pains of Being Pure at Heart last night. What an excellent, excellent show — much better than I had expected, having only listened to the single. The band was notably polite, which I appreciate, and also a little timid, which worries me: I hope they don’t wind up getting exploited by someone called “The Colonel.” I was standing next to a pasty gang of enthusiastic dancers: lots of elbows flying around, but no bruises, thankfully.