(4AD, out Fri 1 Feb 2019)
Zach Condon’s band Beirut have long been steeped in a multicultural romanticism, with the kind of wanderlust that emerges when life becomes a burden of responsibility and endless demands from others. So it is with Gallipoli, which is partially a reaction to, as Condon says, “the utter shit-show of American politics and the media frenzy surrounding it chattering on”, as well as a need to make something profound and personal.
Produced by Gabe Wax with Condon and featuring the usual musicians Nick Petree and Paul Collins, it’s every bit as ambitious and cinematic as expected. Condon’s voice can sound world-weary, as on Varieties of Exile with its accordions and acoustic guitars just the right side of an elegy; or combative on Gauze Fur Zah, but it’s the title track where his voice is vulnerable and unadorned, and all the more affecting for it. The mariachi influences feel both timeless, and leftfield.
There are some exquisite moments of introspection throughout the album – for example, Light in the Atoll feels like an early solo Morrissey album track (oh, for the days when we still felt a collective affectionate for the man) – glowering, even as it glows.
Landslide, with its Farfisa organ front and centre, is hypnotic and woozy, like the effects of too much sun, weed and sangria; whereas the synth throb of We Never Lived Here is moody, like clouds coming out as you touch down in a new holiday destination hoping for sunshine.
However, Radiophonic Workshop styled experimentation notwithstanding (the pretty and fuzzy instrumental On Mainau Island), and even with the gorgeous additional brass from Ben Lanz and Kyle Reznick, it would be nice to hear the band cut loose more, and bare their teeth.
Having saying that, it will undoubtedly sound absolutely glorious within a live setting, particularly underneath the stars, drunk on cheap festival booze. It’s a nice antidote to the seemingly ubiquitous Brexit leave campaign, and a reminder that we are all small and insignificant, in the grander scheme of things.