Music Review: No No No by Beirut (2015)

Release: 11 September 2015
Release: 11 September 2015

There is no doubt about it, Zach Condon can produce some amazing music. However, what is unfortunate, is his newest album No No No doesn’t fit the bill. It has a few stellar songs, but as a whole it’s forgettable. It may have been better suited released as a shorter EP. That being said, the album does have a particular aesthetic that could be appealing for many, but for me it tends to fade into the background. It starts off strong, but most of the album really misses the mark, especially when compared to Beirut’s past greatness.

Both Beirut‘s first two albums Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup are arguably classics, and while the later EPs and the third album The Rip Tide don’t seem to ever capture the same universal appeal. Beirut does well to stick to his style while providing his listeners with some slight variations into more pop or electronic genres. With his last two releases, The Rip Tide and No No No he seems to be sliding further away from albums that feel like a clear and focused whole. The songs now seem to lack any ties to each other and I feel the album suffers for it. Still he can produce some really great tracks and many indistinguishable, yet atmospheric others.

The Tracks:

“Gibraltar” – What a great way to start an album. It is extremely catchy and seems to fit perfectly in the pantheon of past Beirut greats. Right from the bongo beat in songs opening, it is hard to not be hooked. Condon’s vocals sound the same as ever and pair perfectly with the instrumentals.

“No No No” – This track is great follow-up to “Gibraltar” and might actually be an even better song. Right from the get-go I get a really good feeling about this album as it opens with two sure thing future classics. This one has bit more of an electronic vibe that is more reminiscent of the older tracks “Scenic World” or “My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille”. The sad news is that this is where the great tracks end.

“At Once” – The following tracks aren’t really bad, they just are not very special when examining Beirut‘s catalog. This track is quite short, coming in at 2:07 and never really becoming much of anything. Some lovely instrumentals and boring vocals leave me wanting.

“August Holland” – Instrumentally this track sounds much poppier than the other tracks. It doesn’t seem to fit as well in Zach’s World Music/Indie Rock aesthetic. Again, the instrumentals are enjoyable enough and make for some lovely back ground music. They evoke the usual Beirut feelings, but fail to establish anything that lasts.

“As Needed” – This one sounds a bit different from the others with some more unique and interesting instrumentals. It is a little step up from “At Once” and “August Holland”, but doesn’t achieve nearly as much as “Gibraltar” or “No No
No”. It is quite simply, just a pleasant instrumental track that shows a promising start, but never features Zach’s lovable vocals.

“Perth” – This is another slight more electronic songs, but without the appeal of “No No No”. It is again another step up from the track before, but nothing as good as the two openers. If you love Beirut and want to go deeper into the albums filler tracks, this might be a reasonable next step.

“Pacheco” – This track is filled with some interesting and strangely danceable instrumentals. It has a heavy retro sound with some completely forgettable vocals. The track might have been better had Zach not been singing, or at least had he produced some more complicated vocals. As it stands the track just features him softly moaning followed by some indecipherable lyrics.

“Fener” – After the disappointment that came with “Pacheco”,”Fener” was a nice addition. Possibly the third best track on the album. I would say it is better than “Perth”, but many people might disagree. I find that this track is one that gets better with each listen, hopefully the same will begin to happen for the rest of the album.

“So Allowed” – The albums closer starts heavy with piano and has the usual instrumental promise. When Zach’s vocals kick in and seem so fitting, one can’t help but to be filled with usual Beirut induced nostalgia. It is a nice closer for a mediocre album.

So overall, I found No No No rather disappointing. I think this is Beirut‘s weakest album to date. It is a slight step down from The Rip Tide and a big leap down from Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup. If you are a big Beirut fan you will probably enjoy this release. If you are only a mild Beirut fan, maybe only check out the first two tracks. No No No makes for some decent easy listening and just like all his previous albums it feels reminiscent of a European holiday or Wes Anderson film. Give it a listen. It starts with a bang, meanders through some forgettable songs and picks up a bit at the close. Coming in at only 9 tracks and 30 minutes long, it makes for a pleasant enough little journey. I’d give it 3 out of 5 stars.


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