No No No
Sep 07, 2015 Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES
Zach Condon has one of the most recognizable voices in contemporary music, a somehow both lush and nasal delivery that instantly stamps a track as Beirut's. Because his voice is so idiosyncratic, it's difficult for Beirut's music to sound too different from record to record, and gives Condon a small bull's eye to hit. No No No won't change any minds. If one liked Beirut before this, they likely will enjoy No No No, which lies somewhere between the sullen beauty of 2011's The Rip Tide and the ecstatic energy of 2006's debut Gulag Orkestar. If one didn't, No No No doesn't stray far enough to convert non-believers.
The title track opens with a self-referential tinny nod to Gulag, then fills out the sound, marching along with the confident combination of joy and sadness that marks Condon's best songwriting. "Perth" walks the same line, while the lovely "Pacheco" marries tone and tempo, slowing things down as Condon sings, "How long?" over and over, before adding, "Just so I know." The slight smile this moment provides is well worth it, and Condon's humor pokes through elsewhere, too.
No No No is a brisk and somewhat business-like nine tracks at right around half an hour, and doesn't come close to wearing out its welcome, but one wonders what the shining horns and Condon's wonderful voice could do with more space, not over the course of an album, but even just one or two songs. Though there's much to be said for brevity, at times it feels as though No No No shuts the door too quickly, where exploration could potentially yield something deeper. "At Once," for example, never builds to a crescendo, and though there's tension in the restraint, the song feels like a lot of set-up and not enough delivery.
It's not that No No No isn't enjoyable. Quite the contrary. It's an easy record to listen to all the way through, front to back, which is a rare thing. It's a very good Beirut album, but the hope remains that Condon has at least one great one in him. (www.beirutband.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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