Graham Reid | | 1 min read
There's a fairly prevalent belief that if you look busy, people will think you are; that if the surface looks impressive there's probably real substance beneath it; and that if you write in the world of whatever passes for “indie rock” these days (the genre which appears when you drop this new Beirut album into a computer) that you don't need to bother about troublesome things like songs with verses and choruses.
None of these are true, but this album by multi-instrumentalist Zach Condon (aka Beirut) and many pals would have you belief them all.
He stacks up the diverse instrumentation (busy), delivers with plenty of (surface) sheen from horns and arrangements, and lets most of this get by on repeated phrases from trumpet and such.
It is a perfectly realised Teflon album where everything is clean and functional but nothing sticks.
Songs meander from achingly delivered melodic lines which don't quite qualify as verses and just work as sung passages, the sense of sincere melancholy swamps the whole thing and even the details don't withstand much close analysis.
Try the dreary and seemingly endless moan of Varieties of Exile by way of personal torture. Never has a protracted “ahh ohhh” said so little and at such great length. He tries to salvage things in its final minute by bringing back a repeated trumpet line you'll swear you've heard a number of times before in these 12 tracks.
No, it is not all that bad – most of it is though – but the few pieces of interest, and sometimes they are just moments, can't redeem a collection which sounds earnestly self-indulgent, too pleased with its own sense of what passes for busy-work, attention to surfaces rather than substance and is far too slight at every “ahh ohhh” turn.
Beirut were once an Elsewhere favourite but after a fairly wayward and uneven career – and now the barely-baked Gallipoli – it is hard to take this project seriously.
Great show years ago at the over-crowded Kings Arms though, right?