Beer and Pavement

Beirut – The Rip Tide

Posted in Records by SM on August 31, 2011

Listening to a Beirut album is like when I had to take a map quiz in sixth grade. If you didn’t study, you were fucked. If you didn’t read early reviews of the record, you would have no idea from where the band’s sound is coming. The sounds that come from these records are hardly from the States. They are from Eastern Europe, Paris, the Mexican countryside, or wherever Zach Condon finds himself these days. These albums cover the sounds of cultures other than our own without being shitty world music you find in bookstores or hippie joints. A Beirut album is an overseas trip packaged on a vinyl disc.

When Condon travels, he doesn’t buy souvenirs or send postcards. Instead, he collects sounds, plays with local musicians, and brings back new music for Brooklyn hipsters to consume. He doesn’t do it in a National Geographic/misappropriation sort of way. There’s respect for the culture that birthed the music and Condon makes himself a native just long enough to authentically use these sounds.

Of course, all Beirut albums tend to veer toward music with common elements. Horns and strings that soar before rum-pumming along, marching in each locale’s unique gate. So, there are common elements that exist in all these musical influences Condon gathers, but they all combine to make the band’s unique sound.

Enter the bookish The Rip Tide.

And when I say “bookish,” I quite literally mean that the album sleeve is hardcover cloth packaging, much like an actual book. It’s heavy and somewhat thick like a book, but the stories within come on vinyl, not paper.

Those stories all come out with a truly American flare (or United States of Condon?). Left behind is the overwhelming feeling Condon is aping some street musicians as he plays a record that sounds 100% his. This is a pop record sung in an old-timey voice with histrionic horns to lend power. The melodrama is unveiled subtlely, but you catch it and allow the record to let you sit back and enjoy life for a moment.

Of course, it’s over before you know it. As is typical of a Beirut release, there’s very little material there. It seems whatever Condon overindulges in cultural influences, he makes up for it by only recording nine tracks for this LP. Still, this record makes me rather excited to see the band for the first time in October.

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