Beirut – Gallipoli
- Brian Donaldson
- 1 February 2019
An excellent return to form from Zach Condon and his band
If you weren't to know any better about Zach Condon's band, you might imagine a slew of death metal, carnage and chaos. What other conclusion could you arrive at on seeing their name (referencing a once notorious Middle East warzone) and putting two and two together with the new album title (the scene of a military disaster in 1915)? The initiated will, of course, be more attuned to the fact that what lies ahead is more likely to be a delightful squashing of delicate vocals, pleasing soundscapes which veer between jaunty and haunting, and, above all, a collision of ear-consoling brass. None of this is to say that there's never been an element of mayhem in the Beirut world, given that a lost-in-translation comment from Condon once resulted in a violent stage invasion in Brazil and endless touring left him dreaming of an escape route.
It's fair to say that Gallipoli is the sound of a man and a band that seems much more at ease with themselves. The horn-based fanfares are all present and correct as is an extra emphasis on keys (thanks to the Farfisa organ that once belonged to a travelling circus), both merging to glorious effect on the title track. Inevitably the uke is brandished with joyful potency on 'Varieties of Exile', while there's a brief mood shift atop the sparse instrumental of 'On Mainau Island'.
'I Giardini' brings it back home with a seductively simple pop beat and melody, before closer 'Fin' unveils a distinctly Gallic feel that somehow manages to be soothing as well as stirring. There are shades and hues of King Creosote, Air, Divine Comedy and the Smiths cropping up at various moments on Gallipoli, but in the final analysis, Zach Condon has made the niche of heightened brassy emotion all his own.
Out now on 4AD.