Beirut: Gallipolli review – Pinterest-friendly world indie


Four 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. The soft-rock moods of 2015’s No No No are pared back slightly, with the scratchier production of their earlier work brought back in, resulting in the Beirutiest Beirut album yet.

Zach Condon’s voice remains as distinctively lovely as ever: unafraid of whimsical wordless yodels and heartfelt vibrato, this potentially divisive instrument, best in small doses, is what gives the band its heft. You really notice its absence on the pointless instrumentals On Mainau Island and Fin.

At times his croon resembles Jens Lekman’s, and it makes you wish he paired, as Lekman does, his romance with wit and self-effacement. The Kermit-y yearning of his voice goes a long way to legitimise and mask the weak lyrics, which make Rupi Kaur seem like Samuel Beckett. Condon is forever “listless in thrall”, to use his phrase: floating from one vaguely poignant scenario to another, learning little. “Love is like the oar / That takes us back ashore / let’s get out more”, he sings, like a free-associating ad exec for Center Parcs. Elsewhere, his sweetness is undermined by romanticising emotional laziness: “There’s a landslide back home / Pity I can’t I can’t hold on … don’t you wait out the storm / just pull roots and move on.”

All that said, there are plenty of plainly beautiful moments on Gallipoli. The melodies, often arranged in lulling repeated patterns, may sometimes be unadventurous, but Condon invests a simple three-note motif on We Never Lived Here with real sadness, the trumpets later blaring in a stern martial tribute. The addictively satisfying barbershop harmonies on Gauze Für Zah, meanwhile, make it the album’s highlight.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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