Returning to the stage for the first time since 2013, The Incompetents performed once again for the Beirut public on January 6 at Metro Al Madina for their concert "After All We Are Not Complete Strangers."

It was a throwback to their 2011 line-up, with Paed Conca on the bass, Maya Aghniadis on the drums, Stéphane Rives on the saxophone, keyboard and synthesizers, Fadi Tabbal on the guitars, effects, and harmonica and Serge Yared on vocals and guitar. The eclectic band, formed in 2007 (and undergoing significant changes in the line-up since then until their current incarnation, at one point included well-known local musicians such as Marc Codsi, Vladimir Kurumilian and Moe Kabbara) is difficult to classify even within the Lebanese Indie scene.



Distinctly alternative, the band's improvised compositions reek of punk, grunge, jazz and other elements of folk that still fall within the sphere of rock. Since their first album, released in 2008, "More Songs from the Victorious City," the enigmatic band has recorded three recorded albums, delivered a host of live performances, and a number of shows in both Lebanon and France.

Their concerts are actually rare, as the performers live transnational (and sometimes simply complicated) lives, but whenever they are together, a dark energy rarely heard in Beirut anymore and infected by the early alternative music of the city's post-war generation is deployed. Not everybody is a fan of the often disjointed sounds, conceives as a pastiche or collage, but their position is unique.

Not experimental enough for Beirut's music experiments and not compact enough for mainstream music, they are neither exotic nor foreign. Influenced by early electronica and major alternative figures such as Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, The Incompetents have never sought to become THE band of Beirut, but their music humorously tells the stories of a city whose reality is often less grandiose and more tragic than the imagined war-torn paradise that so often haunts Lebanese music and art. The simplicity and irony endows them with that radical impetus often found in the spirit of punk.

What is the difference between the composition of music and the production of sound? The lines are blurry, but the cultural landscape has always been an integral part of their musical arrangements.



The Incompetents retain that fresh quality of a post-war moment characterized by a loss of direction and the coalescence of different eras, some forlorn, some not yet present. The lyrics of Serge Yared, while humorous, are dark and deliberate, but smell of comedy and absurdity. The fragile sound, combined with Yared's talent for concrete poetry and the obsessively dark artwork of Alfred Tarazi that adorns - or rather informs - their albums, make The Incompetents not only a rare musical pastiche but something sitting on the borders of contemporary art, quite nonchalantly. And there's something absolutely refreshing about their ability to take the piss out on themselves. Why The Incompetents? Because even if they couldn't quite make music, they still would!

The combination of Serge Yared and Fadi Tabbal, in a way, couldn't be unlikelier. Beyond Yared's too-cool-for-school compositions, Tabbal brings a mastery of electronic music and a background in sound engineering, creating something formless but riddled with curiosity and a sense of theatricality which is hard to miss. Their second album "I'm Really Important Back Home"(2011) continues on a path of saturation and dark humor characteristic of Tarazi's visuals, and finally, "Of Mirror Differences and Narcissism" (2012) comes with a more convoluted message, that of a region in transition... for the worse. To listen to them is a bizarre pleasure, one that doesn't come without laughter, as if the possibilities of music could be expanded into something almost accidental and cruel.

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