Beirut-The Rip Tide

 You know those cd’s they have out for parents to play to their newborns that are full of Mozart and Bach? I think they’re called “Baby Einstein” or something like that. A better title would be “Baroque Babies.” Anyway, as we all know, within twenty to thirty years classical music will be forgotten, and babies will have nothing to listen to except Tha Carter XLVI and whatever the merger between Clear Channel and Pepsi brings us. My suggestion to anyone planning on someday having a child (in the next twenty to thirty years) should collect all the Beirut albums and play these to the unborn fetus that will someday be a little you.

That really is the way I feel about Beirut-it’s the new classical music. All the complexity and richness that makes listening to Rachmaninov so invigorating, but also a pop sensibility that makes it available for non-classical fans to enjoy. Zach Condon has created a genre, virtually by himself, that I don’t think I would ever want to live without.

I was introduced to Beirut in 2007, if memory serves. It was one of those great discoveries from that I run into from time to time. I had never heard of the band, but a ton of people who had very similar tastes to mine were all listening to Gulag Orkestar, so I grabbed it. From the first time I heard “Rhineland” (which for whatever reason was the first track I played), I knew Beirut would be a favorite. They are so completely different from anything else out there.  They followed that up with The Flying Club Cup, a split EP release with two radically different sounds, and now their third full-length, The Rip Tide.

The album opens with “A Candle’s Fire.” This is a good starting point, as it opens with accordion only, and allows the listener a moment to just sit back and get acquainted with the atmosphere the album will be providing. I am consistently amazed at Condon’s ability to build a song piece-by piece until it becomes this massive work of art. The band is like the Polyphonic Spree, only good and with instruments. According to Wikipaedia there are seven members, but the last time I saw them on television, there were at least ten.

The next track, “Santa Fe,” is Beirut’s version of 80’s synth-pop. It’s kind of crazy and fun, with weird little flourishes all over the place. It starts wtih only synths, and then ends with just a flute. Honestly, this track is a bit of filler for me, because while it’s good, it doesn’t define the band as well as the opener does, and it’s nowhere near as good as the next.

“East Harlem,” which is the lead single off The Rip Tide, is where the album really kicks into high gear. It’s one of the most beautiful pieces Beirut have released, and I think I could listen to it on repeat until I die and be perfectly ok with it. Generally I don’t pay much attention to Condon’s lyrics-for me it’s all part of the huge canvas he’s painting, and they’re no more important than the tuba or the flugelhorn. On this track, however, I found them quite good, even though they’re about as short and simple as they come:

Another rose wilts in East Harlem
And uptown downtown a thousand miles between us
She’s waiting for the night to fall
Let it fall, I’ll never make it in time (repeat 3x)
Sound is the colour I know, oh,
Sound is what keeps me looking for your eyes,
And sound of your breath in the cold,
And oh, the sound will bring me home again.(repeat 2x)

(Click here to listen to the song beirut-east-harlem)

The next track, “Goshen,” is the B-side to the single, and is damn near as good. It features Condon’s voice much more up front than usual, and has a marching beat behind it that makes the song sound almost patriotic. Lyrically, it’s actually a bit sad, so the pace definitely helps the song become more than a humdrum lullaby.

Skipping ahead a bit, I’d like to highlight one more track. I’d hate to spoil the whole album for you, but really there’s so much great stuff here in such a short amount of time, you’d be crazy not to pick it up.

“The Peacock” is the second-to-last track, and it’s the clincher if you haven’t already made up your mind. This track sums it all up for me. It contains all the elements that make up a Beirut song-illogical but somehow amazing -sounding instruments, repeated lyrics, ethereal ambiance. It’s all here!

The album closes with the closest thing to a Gulag Orkestar sequel we will probably ever get, so enjoy it.

Beirut continues to impress every time out. They’re appearing at Lollapalooza this weekend, and the digital release of this album was bumped up from August 30th to this week-that’s right you can buy it NOW! I suggest you do so. If you’re in the Chicagoland area and not attending Lollapalooza, Beirut will be back at Congress Theater on September 26th.