Beirut: No No No
Beirut have long been established as kings of light indie music; as well as their wide variety of sounds, they are known for a quick rate of production – In 5 years, they released 8 separate albums or EPs.
Recently, however, fans have had to deal with a drought. After 4 years of nothing, Beirut have finally opened up their doors with a new album, No No No. With a running time of 29 minutes, each track zips past you almost without you noticing and unfortunately, each one leaves behind little to savour or remember. No No No has received some criticism for its simplicity, but in fact, simplicity would not be an issue were it not for the utter lack of development across the whole album.
The opening is promising: an anticipatory African-style drumming intro beckons you into first track 'Gibraltar', with light syncopated piano stabs dragging you to something resembling a nice, inoffensive Apple ad. Lead singer Zach Condon’s languorous tones sweep into the foreground – with a little bit of Charlie Fink and a little bit of Rufus Wainwright, there’s a lazy, homely quality to Condon, which spreads the feeling of goodwill. Much like the rest of the album, “Gibraltar” consists of basically one musical idea stretched over a few minutes. It survives just about unscathed, although ironically it feels like it could lose 30 seconds of its duration.
After that, however, the album falls horribly flat. Every track, from jittery title song 'No No No' to funky piano trip 'Fener' plays around without going anywhere, ending abruptly to leave you not exactly wanting more, but wanting something else. Of course, each song is still pristine in its production – you cannot deny Beirut’s sound is the epitome of pleasant. The change from 'Gibraltar' to 'No No No' in particular is expertly quirky. The issue is that each track feels little more than a sketch, and certainly not the sum of 4 years of work. Without substance, “pleasant” just doesn’t cut it.
This almost minimalist approach isn’t alien to Beirut – just listen to 'Candle’s Fire', opening track from previous album The Rip Tide, and you’ll see a similarly thrifty use of material. The difference is that 'Candle’s Fire' feels like a full song, as does 2007’s 'The Penalty'. Unfortunately for Condon and co, most of the tracks on No No No don’t give you enough to make you want to keep listening.
At best this album feels like a first draft; if it were a collection of demos, it may be more understandable. Without any bite, without any substance, Beirut appear to have momentarily lost their edge.