Review Summary: Beirut awaken from their European reverie and produce a startlingly mature third LP.
The longed after distraction of escapism has always fallen more certainly under film’s jurisdiction than music’s, while the latter has, broadly speaking, clung to a style of storytelling decidedly more personal - closer to parables and poetry. But when Zach Condon whisked us away four years ago with The Flying Club Cup
, a veritable guided tour through cobblestone streets and Balkan gypsy settlements, it was one of the few records around genuinely trembling with that cinematic quality. Every song painted a picture; an ideal world of sepia-toned Mediterranean coastal towns that, at the precise moment the band poised itself behind the flare of a trumpet, would pull you through the frame. No song since “Postcards From Italy” has better encapsulated the desire for travel, romance and the will to simply be
, with someone you love, in a foreign place, floating in the cold current of an Atlantic ocean, to exist comfortably in a situation better than where you are right now, and not because Condon had experienced these things and was relaying it all back to us, but because the music was written through a filter of these dreams and aspirations.
Despite this, The Rip Tide
is the first Beirut record to depart from that common thread of yearning and in doing so, opens the doors for listeners to glimpse Condon and co. at a much more personal level than as some admirable traveling troubadour. “Santa Fe”, for example, takes its title from the town Condon grew up in and in its bouncy synth rhythm, perfectly demonstrates one of the records most terrific surprises; The Rip Tide
is also the first Beirut album to fully embrace the pop sensibilities Condon so deftly displayed in songs like “Scenic World” and nurtured through his side project, Realpeople. Others like “A Candle’s Fire” and the terrific first single “East Harlem” put this talent on full display, marking a surprising but welcome change in tone for an artist that seemed to once carry the burden of perpetual melancholia in every husky warble.
The maturation of content adds an interesting perspective to approaching The Rip Tide
compared to previous LPs. No longer does the relationship between the listener necessarily require as large a degree of mutuality; where the lengthy, fantastic instrumental interludes of “Elephant Gun” were sharpened by imagination and the gloomy wallowing of “Nantes” gave more for each lovers quarrel sketched into your memory, the fact that The Rip Tide
operates on a more personal level naturally imbues it with the ability to be, generally, more relatable. The subtle, simmering warmth of “Goshen” and the permeating loneliness of the title track move unlike (though not necessarily superior or inferior, purely in a different manner) any previous efforts simply because they resonate far closer to what is real than what we’ve dreamed and imagined. It’s one of the records key strengths; though it may not capture our hearts as instantly as the ideas of nostalgia and romance, The Rip Tide
ushers in different dimensions of emotion and that is a progression to be admired.
Though these changes should not be greatly exaggerated – they do
come in small measures – they give the record a character of its own. However, the elements fans have come to expect of the band have certainly not gone amiss, with tracks like “The Peacock” highlighting some of the brightest storytelling of their career; “Where should I begin, begin?” Condon stutters. “He’s the only one who knows the words”, he realizes over the regal horn of a trumpet and a shifting drone. Beirut may have taken a break from composing the music of reverie but they've settled somewhere with as much life to colour.