In 2006 Beirut released their debut album Gulag Orkestar which proved to be a surprise success being lauded as Rough Trade’s album of the year. With the then nineteen year old Zach Condon at the helm, he explored themes of war and confusion in eastern Europe evident even from the songs titles; ‘Brandenburg’ and ‘After The Curtain’ to name a few. Now twenty-four, Condon’s newly matured self is plain to see as he introspectively writes about his own feelings rather than doing an Atticus Finch and putting himself in other peoples’ shoes.
The main focus of The Rip Tide is explored in the most depth on ‘Santa Fe’ being the desire to return to the hometown you never thought you would. Despite the urge to progress into more electronic music, Beirut have stuck to their guns and the winning combination of strings, piano and horns with only minimal deviations. The European influences are still very much audible but for this record, Beirut have stuck to a more pop orientated spirit and sound, ‘Santa Fe’ being the closest Beirut are likely to get to a pop song.
On opener ‘A Candle’s Fire’, Condon seems to be apologising for an inadequacy of some ilk, singing “I, it’s certain from a far/have failed to pull my weight”. In ‘East Harlem’ Condon elegantly confesses his love for music in beautiful conciseness; “Sound is the colour I know”. The penultimate track on the album, ‘The Peacock’ refers to the Beirut of old in such lines as “back in the sand just like those soldier-men”, keeping itself sombre and lugubrious as if to reign in the album’s previous joviality. ‘Port of Call’ brings the album to a close with Condon nostalgically reminiscing about old times; “we were closer then/I’ve been alone sometime”.
The Rip Tide’s easily relatable subject matter is sure to be a hit amongst the bohemians who dream or have dreamt of moving away for as long as they can remember but in spite of its more poppy tendencies, I can’t see it breaking into the mainstream, no matter how deserving it is.
The main criticism of The Rip Tide is its brevity, in only being thirty-three minutes long it can easily pass by unnoticed so careful and attentive listening is imperative. As Pitchfork so eloquently put, “you get as much out of Condon’s creations as you put time into them, and familiarity becomes its own reward”. So sit down, get comfortable and play this record from beginning to end a few times (time permitting of course) and I promise you won’t regret it.
Released on 29th August 2011 by Pompeii Recordings.