On the early tracks of Beirut’s 4th full album ‘No No No,’ Zach Condon, head honcho of the world music outfit, seems somehow weary. Yes, it has long been his approach, a compelling laid back yet motivated drive, but some kind of passion is missing this time that never was before. He has warm muscular tones in his voice, but the notes that emerge feel a little dull, almost like he had to make an album but the inspiration wasn’t really there this time.
It isn’t until the piano on the third and fourth tracks that the album feels a little brighter, despite the fact that the musicianship is good throughout. Perhaps it hadn’t seem likely that the songs would fall flat owing to the vocals, which at the halfway point you can’t help but ponder.
Is this the story of an album that needed to be made to fulfil contractual obligations? There is little here by way of inspiration, from others, or that would inspire listeners. It’s a shadow of past work by Condon’s Beirut. The funereal final track ‘So Allowed’ has some deranged and beautiful strings that are all too late. They are a blessing that cannot save an awful trough in a now rather unusual career. Condon’s early promise is not being realised and this album is awfully disappointing. The final track is the best song by a country mile. It proves he still has something, though quite what remains to be seen. The rest of the album is lagging far behind, despite the fact that it grows through repeated listens, and it’s perplexing to have no idea why.
The story of a divorce, and music related problems that saw him scrap a first effort at his fourth album, coupled with discovering new love in Turkey and inspiration for the new album fill in some of the gaps regarding the long absence between his third effort and this. However, having started his career in such an intoxicating ride of youth, passion, culture, and life, it doesn’t seem to be the progression many would have hoped for. Hopefully it’s a simple blip in the grand scheme of things, and with the next release Beirut will be back where it belongs, beside the acts in the higher echelons of popular and world music. Remember when it was the perfect mix of the two, with jazz and indie leanings thrown in? 29 minutes of music in 4 years? It’d have to be better than this to satisfy the band’s biggest fans.
Words: Dominic Stevenson