Published Jan 30, 2019Beirut were at the vanguard of indie rock's world music phase, and the band's Balkan horns were part of a landscape littered with West African guitars and tribal rhythms. Now, more than a decade later, songwriter Zach Condon hasn't so much evolved as he has toned down his musical tourism into a sound that's polite, but not particularly distinctive.
The band's fifth LP opens with the lush one-two punch of "When I Die" and the title track, with Condon's quavering tenor evoking the wistful majesty that Beirut do best. Throw in the sprawling ukulele tune "Varieties of Exile," with its clattering percussion and la-di-da vocal refrains, and Gallipoli has strong opening that plays to Beirut's strengths without breaking any new ground.
Things go awry when Condon and his collaborators tone down the grandeur: "On Mainau Island" and "Fin" are half-baked instrumental sketches that are perfectly pleasant but go nowhere, while "Gauze für Zah" ends with nearly three minutes of aimless drone.
These throwaways make the ten-song album feel low on substantial ideas: there's enough material here for a solid EP, but it's rather thin for a full-length. Still, as a modestly enjoyable throwback to 2006, it gets the job done. (4AD)