Beirut is a Balkan-influenced indie rock group led by singer/song-writer Zach Condon who has the vocal, cerebral and instrumental capacity of stealing you away and intoxicating you in a world immersed in beautiful color and picturesque emotion.
Imagine drunkenly dancing with groups of gypsies in a marvelous daze like there were no tomorrow. Picture a walk down a stone-paved street in Paris, accordion in hand, wailing songs about the essence of love. Envision the romanticism. This is how Beirut have approached their work. Songs are more than just period pieces, they are authentic artifacts yet created and released in a modern setting. There has to be something just mesmerizing about that. Condon successfully channels every single human aspect of a time and place that lived many years ago, like some sort of lost novel. The sheer awe that Beirut brings out of listeners has always been the sole factor of their acclaim. From the manner Beirut takes itself so lightly while delivering something beyond marvelous, the lack of technicality and focus on authenticity, every album from Beirut sounds like a masterpiece. Now we have Beirut’s new release: The Rip Tide.
Without any doubt, this album has been a shift in nearly all aspects of Beirut’s work ethic and aspirations. Gone is the raw spirit of youth that forever desires all the world’s joys. We hear Condon in a much more refined, mature and minimal state, as an artist. On a whole, The Rip Tide feels like your favorite t-shirt that has taken too many cycles in the wash and can’t even fit anymore. From every possible angle, the sound has shrunken; soundly far less worldly and much more modern and technical sounding.
Through this shift, the new sound feels more intimate but far less cohesive or sweet. I find flaws in every track off the album that voids it from being something great. The opening track “A Candle’s Fire” provides a introduction of classic Beirut instrumentation, yet Condon’s new style of song-writing and accompanied delivery sound forced and slightly awkward. There are songs here like Santa Fe and Vagabond that sound honky-tonky, poppy and irritatingly out-of-place. Songs like Goshen and The Rip Tide progress beautifully yet result in anti-climatic moments not worth caring for, even after much thought. All the ingredients of Beirut’s work are present, so why was the such a need to dilute the experience? Even if this were a creative experiment for Beirut in order to concentrate their creativity on certain instruments and passions, there were many immediate formalities that could have been taken care of.
Call me a fan-boy of Beirut’s classic styles and those of Balkan-influenced artists, I am no enemy to change. Even from past releases like Gulag Orkestar and Lon Gisland, Condon has artistically evolved, but not sacrificing his songs to sound as hollow as The Rip Tide is. The ultimate disappointment of The Rip Tide lies in the fact that Beirut no longer sounds like a marvel from a lost generation, but a lukewarm revival band desperate to change the current indie scene up.
This album was like some phony gypsy wanna-be at a party. (2/5)