Beirut: The Rip Tide (Pompeii) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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#37 – St. VincentBeirut

The Rip Tide


Aug 09, 2011 Beirut Bookmark and Share

The Rip Tide may finally answer the question, “Will the real Beirut please stand up?” Since 2006’s Gulag Orkestar, each Beirut release has been somewhat culturally immersive, playing like an aural snapshot or period soundtrack for bandleader Zach Condon’s current focus of interest. Condon has always managed to put a personal stamp on Beirut’s releases, however, incorporating various world-music elements along the way into his vision, rather than simply undertaking fawning replications of discovered sounds.

After such releases as Orkestar‘s Balkan swing, the French postcard of 2007’s The Flying Club Cup, and the Mexican ensemble gathered for the 2009 EP March of the Zapotec, some fans might have grown to expect Condon to stick a new pin into his globe whenever it came time to record. Instead, The Rip Tide, the band’s third full-length, assimilates a little from each stop on Condon’s world tour. It’s similar in execution to DeVotchKa’s recent work and, generally, in spirit to The Decemberists.

The Beirut of Condon and company circa 2011 is one of joy, wistfulness, and sweet balm, as though they set out on a mission to create a record that represents the opposite experience of their war-torn namesake city. A group of horns join a ukulele to kick off the album with “A Candle’s Fire,” and the marching band-style drumming—a recurring detail that is shared in “Goshen 1” and “Payne’s Bay”—lends a century-old air to the sound. Titus Andronicus may have thematically co-opted The Civil War for their last album, but Beirut manages to actually evoke an air of earlier America.

Following its pump-organ intro, the album’s upbeat first single, “East Harlem,” has piano, ukulele, and drums joining as a lean, rhythmic framework for the horns and harmony vocals that, in turn, join Condon’s voice. The group voices of the lovely “The Peacock 1” sound like tables of bar patrons joining for a shared moment of solidarity and equanimity.

There are flashes and flourishes throughout The Rip Tide that recall influences explored on earlier recordings, but on their first full-length album in four years Beirut sounds more like a well-traveled American band with great stories to tell. (

Author rating: 7/10

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