BEIRUT – The Rip Tide (Pompeii Recordings)

This is the first album that I have tried from Beirut, for the simple reason that, once I had seen the picture on the cover of their ‘March of The Zatopec’ EP with Zach Condon posing with his tuba, and reading reviews that mentioned ‘Balkan bedroom electro-pop’, I really did not think it was for me. Now four albums into their career I heard whisperings that Zach had started write to what we would call ‘proper songs’, and so now is the time to give them a try. Initial samplings were promising, with ‘A Candle’s Fire’ and ‘Santa Fe’ actually being very good, and even though he still seems to want to experiment with the arrangements – witness the mariachi band on ‘Santa Fe’ - I did really like them. Not having heard any of their other work I can’t compare these songs to earlier output by the band, but the consensus seems to be that this is more of a band album than previous efforts, although it is still Condon’s baby. ‘East Harlem’ is pretty straight-forward indie pop, even singalong in places, while ‘Goshen’ is an introspective ballad, given haunting overtones by the addition of a muted brass band and military drumbeats. ‘Payne’s Bay’s accordian and violin intro give it a Parisian feel, and the Eurobeat rhythm carries this through the whole song. ‘Vagabond’ has some of the most overt lyrics on here - while all the songs seem to be about searching for one’s inner self, this one spells it out in a jaunty indie pop song. ‘The Peacock’ is a decidedly odd little piece, with just a few organ chords as backing, until a trumpet floats in towards the end, and a repeated refrain of ‘he’s the only one that knows the words’. Don’t quite know where he was going with that one, but it is not unpleasant so I will let it go. ‘Port Of Call’ is the song on here that really stands out – a memorable melody and good performance make it the one that you remember after the album is over. And then it is all over – just 33 minutes and nine songs on this latest offering from Beirut. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I enjoyed this album, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will seek out their back catalogue as I still think much of it will not be for me – but don’t let me stop you if you want to do so after hearing this fine little album.

A Candle's Fire