Nobody writes love songs to George W. Bush. Unless, of
course, they're from the perspective of jilted lovers who realize
he isn't the seemingly beautiful man they foolishly eloped with
as young, naïve brides. Condoleezza Rice, on the other
hand, has benefited from two known love songs. First, there was
Steve Earle's "Condi, Condi". Now comes Little
Beirut's "Love During Wartime." (Of course, there
may be other Condi odes as well - she's quite the striking lady).
Whereas Earle's tribute is an out-and-out song of lust, Little
Beirut's is a little more complicated than that. ""Love
During Wartime"", explains vocalist Hamilton Sims,
"is a jab at the war and the goings on of the Bush administration.
But it's also a jab at the fact that in order for [Rice] to become
the most powerful woman in the history of U.S. politics, she had
to be completely desexualized to make it okay. Hence, [this is]
why a love song to her seems so absurd." "Love During
Wartime" moves at an easygoing pace, and is colored with
horns. It sounds a little like Radiohead-meets-Johnny
Cash's "Ring of Fire", if that comparison makes
any sense. This is only one of many strange musical combinations
because Little Beirut is impossible to precisely peg sonically.
Little Beirut may be from Portland, Oregon, but Sims often sings
like those Brits that lead Coldplay, Aqualung, Athlete,
and the like. Even so, the group's instrumentation is more organic,
less mechanic than that of their British contemporaries.
This act is equally unpredictable lyrically. If the thought of
desexualized Condoleezza Rice is strange song subject matter -
and let's face it, that's pretty weird stuff - just get a load
of "Sniper's Lament", which appears to concern the Beltway
sniper attacks. They find themselves "counting accidents
on the freeway," killing time before the next kill. Creepy!
Songs like "Sniper's Lament" tend to lull the listener
into a false sense of beauty drunkenness. In other words, everything
sounds sugary throughout High Dive, even though many of
its lyrics come off ugly and uncouth. It's as though the band
sings sweetly, in hopes that all their lovely music might somehow
transform this bitter world's aftertaste into Eden's candy once
again. They'll fail, of course. But you have to give the guys
credit for trying. The candyman can, but mere mortals cannot.
And that's a shame for sweet teeth everywhere.
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