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The Rip Tide

Beirut: The Rip Tide

  • Beirut
  • Alternative & IndieFolk
  • Out now
  • Pompeii Records
  • Everywhere
reviewed by
Haisam Awad
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Beirut: The Rip Tide

Zach Condon is
Beirut. While a rag-tag group of musicians yielding French horns, ukuleles,
glockenspiels and other funnily-named instruments accompany him both on stage
and in studio, the shaggy-haired and nasally-voiced American is one big musical
brain.

As with their previous albums Gulag Orkestar (2006) and The Flying Club Cup (2007), Beirut’s
latest piece of work is an ode to loneliness and abandon. All three albums are
easy enough to grasp but hard to classify. Record shops will usually put it
into the ‘pop and rock’ section, but only after considering throwing it into
the ‘world music’ section. Condon’s discovery of Balkan folk as a youngster has
shaped his bleak musical outlook.

‘A Candle’s Fire’ opens with
trumpets, an accordion and a marching-band drum line, a sound-theme that runs
unashamedly through the 33-minute-long album. ‘Santa Fe’, which is Condon’s
hometown, is the only instance that recalls Beirut’s use of electronic music,
seen most notably on their 2009 double EP March of the Zapotec/Holland. In this instance, they use what
sounds like an old Casio keyboard.

‘Goshen’ sweeps dramatically
into the most sombre song on the album. It sounds like a marching band at a
funeral, but is as affecting as Condon gets; ‘You never found it home/ You’re
not the girl I used to know’.

‘Payne’s Bay’ could be a Belle & Sebastian track, and is one of the more pop-friendly songs in which the
playful trumpeted melody lifts the album into images of a quiet summer
afternoon in a field. Title track ‘The Ripe Tide’ is dangerously and
delightfully close to a full-blown pop song and the instrumentals are layered
into a much more sophisticated track. ‘Vagabond’ is another welcome upbeat
number, whereas the album closes on ‘Port of Call’; a quintessentially grand and sweeping Beirut
song.

It’s been four years since
Beirut’s first album, and although one more has been released since, there
hasn’t been enough of an evolvement. Several EPs have granted
Condon chances to venture, but those experiments have shown no signs of
emerging on The Rip Tide.

Most, if not all, of the songs
on The Rip Tide belong inside a small
murky  pub in a small murky fishing town.
And that’s why we like it. The union of Eastern European folk and Western
indie-pop it suits Condon’s joyless aura to a
joyful tee. It’s as agreeable to the palate as the rest of the Beirut
back-catalogue of work, but the sound has stood still for too long, and not a single song reaches the heights of classics such as ‘Nantes’.

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