Release Date: Feb 1, 2019
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Threaded through with head honcho Zach Condon's musical adventurousness, Beiruit's latest outing is lit up by luminous hooks, at times feeling like a victory lap for all that the band has achieved In winter of 2016, Beirut's headh honcho Zach Condon started writing music on his Farfisa organ. This was the same instrument on which the band's acclaimed debut 'Gulag Orkestar' was written over a decade earlier. The group’s debut dazzled with its juxtaposition of Balkan folk with capricious indie; crunchy syncopated rhythms were combined with lilting festival-ready choruses, and the result was a hugely impressive, if unusual, first album.
The fifth full-length by Zach Condon's Beirut, Gallipoli is a sequel of sorts to 2015's No No No in that it returns co-producer Gabe Wax and employs similar instrumentation, including Condon's Farfisa organ. An instrument that he acquired at his first job at a community art space in his hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico, it had been left behind by a (literal) traveling circus and ended up serving as the main writing tool for Condon's first two Beirut albums. With that free-spirited background in mind as well as the fact that Wax has acted as recording engineer for bands like The War on Drugs and Fleet Foxes, where Gallipoli differs from its predecessor is in its level of vibrancy.
The test of a good Beirut song: Does it move you to tears and inexplicably so? "Gallipoli," the first single from Zach Condon's latest, passes the litmus in its first three bars. Like "Elephant Gun" and "The Rip Tide," standouts from Beirut's patina-stained oeuvre that can involuntarily overcome the most stoic with brass and a mournful cadence, his first words here: "We tell tales to be known," ring like a credo. It quickly reveals an album with fully formed ideas of mortality, memory, and misgivings drawn from a palpable emotional core, largely absent from amenable last LP, 2015's No No No.
After releasing the unfulfilling No No No in 2015, the trajectory of Zach Condon, the mastermind behind Beirut, pointed downward. Uninspired, the band's original charm went out the window with their last album. Gone was the transportive Balkan mystique of Gulag Orkestar, the French flair of follow-up The Flying Club Cup, and in came a spiritless injection of indie pop triteness with No, No, No.
Beirut's Zach Condon came up in the tender landscape of mid-aughts indie rock and has been chilling there ever since. After nearly four years freewheeling throughout both New York and Europe, he is back with Gallipoli, which is neither named after the World War I battle nor a reference to the terrible Mel Gibson movie (also about the World War I battle). On Gallipoli, Condon is still doing the same exact thing he's been doing the past 13 years--creating roomy, Elephant 6-indebted indie pop that sounds more or less like a readymade soundtrack for a young film student trying to front as an auteur.
'Gallipoli', the fifth album from Zach Condon's Beirut saw him (literally) returning to practices of old. The record was written on the same Farfisa organ used to write his first two albums as Beirut (2006's 'Gulag Orkestar' and the following year's 'The Flying Club Cup'). As such, there's a gorgeous familiarity to the record, but it's also one peppered with adventure.
F our years have passed since the previous Beirut record, but they remain - soothingly and dismayingly - much the same. The brass is still pitched somewhere between Burnley and the Balkans, proud but wobbly, with the occasional duff note kept unedited to better signify frail humanity. Ukuleles are strummed as if heralding the arrival of the bride at an indie-Pinterest wedding.
Zac Condon shipped his organ - previously owned by a traveling circus' keyboard player - from Santa Fe to New York in order to write this album. 'Gallipoli' is almost as enchanting as that story. Written on the same organ as the first two Beirut albums, this record is undoubtedly of the same ilk, which is a little disappointing until you acknowledge that this is Condon doing what he does best: making emotionally driven, nuanced songs with a Balkan heart that transport you into a black and white memory.