Beirut / The Rip Tide / Pompeii Records
Beirut. It’s the capital and largest city of Lebanon. It’s another name for everyone’s favourite college drinking game, beer pong. It’s also the name of the group fronted by New Mexico-native Zach Condon. By either of the other two definitions – either the city or the often-raucous drinking game – the name Beirut does not call images of calm relaxation to mind. The musical group Beirut, however, particularly on this, The Rip Tide, their third album, will help you relax through that rainy day. Condon and his Beirut will help you chill out as you drink a green tea and gaze out the window of your tiny uptown apartment at the bikers and artisans on the street below. If that all sounds a little bland and safe, so occasionally does The Rip Tide. But just because this album has a few tunes that might not sound out of place in The Magnificent Ambersons doesn’t mean a lot of the emotions expressed on it aren’t powerfully conveyed.
The brass section on “East Harlem” is orchestral and rhythmic, never displaying any sort of jazz-flavoured aggression. It’s fitting though, as Condon describes a nocturnal rendezvous that seems doomed never to take place. The characters in Condon’s songs never display much in the way of passionate emotions, preferring to keep stiff upper lips. On “Goshen” (the kind of song you wish Paul McCartney was writing these days) the singer accuses an old friend of having become a different person since hitting it big – but you get the impression he’s only talking to himself, possibly behind the curtain while she’s on stage. It’s a poignant story of feeling and regret, and a high point on the The Rip Tide. Some flourishes at the end of “Payne’s Bay” spice things up, but there are plenty of moments when one song’s piano intro and the previous song’s trumpet melody blend together, and the enjoyability of the whole package is diminished slightly by this lack of variety. Or is that just another instance of art imitating life?
Download: “Goshen”, “East Harlem”
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