To listen to Beirut’s first two albums was like taking a journey into an idealised Hollywood/Eastern European fable, where tales of summer soirees and escapes from the gulag were conveniently conveyed in English. The man behind the music, Zach Condon, fully supports this imagery in his live appearances, often seen donning tweed and playing with the air of a man leading a skiffle band.

But Beirut could never be derided or pigeonholed as a revivalist band or a theatrical curiosity. They had bewildering pop songs like ‘Nantes’ and ‘Elephant Gun’ and lyrics that transcended geographically specific settings. This earned them a burgeoning audience and the eager anticipation for their new album, The Rip Tide, was seen in the fact that it was leaked on the internet nearly two months before its original scheduled release date.

The same old fascination with place names and settings remains, with songs titled ‘East Harlem’ and ‘Santa Fe’. The former sees a more stripped down, easier to digest form of the sound heard on 2007’s The Flying Club Cup, while the latter incorporates the more synth-oriented melodies of Condon’s 2009 EP March of the Zapotech.

The overall sound is still uniquely Beirut, best evidenced in the mournful horns and ponderous percussion on ‘Payne’s Bay’ or the melancholic piano riff of the title track. Condon’s lyrics have always belied his age and this is exemplified on ‘The Rip Tide’, with the simple refrain ‘And this is the house where I, I feel alone, feel alone now/And this is the house where I could be unknown, be alone now/So, the waves and I found a rolling tide’.

Beirut’s songs have often been written from a first person perspective; whereas his previous records focussed on a sense of escapism and adventure, this one finds the narrator at a crossroads and a sense of confusion and conflict is palpable. ‘Port of Call’ mentions ‘You had hope for me now/I danced all around it somehow’ while even the most upbeat sounding track ‘Vagabond’ speaks of being ‘lost and not found’.

The four years since the last album have seemingly been a soul searching time for Condon, and The Rip Tide can be seen as the American traveller in Europe running out of hope and longing for somewhere to call home. It is then no surprise that on ‘Santa Fe’, Condon pleas to the town of his birth to ‘Sign me up, Santa Fe/And call your son’. Much in the world has changed since The Flying Club Cup, and we could perhaps all rally behind this pining for security in a world besieged by panic and dread.

Beirut – East Harlem by Revolver USA

The Rip Tide is out on 29th of August on Pompeii Records. 

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