If you enjoy indie-folk music, enticing vocals, and/or accordions, you have probably encountered Beirut, an American band with a penchant for European-inspired sounds and captivating lyrics. Zach Condon, a composer and musician widely regarded for his unique voice and multicultural influences, founded Beirut in 2006. Since then, he has provided the alternative and indie genres with a refreshing yet nostalgic take on folk music.
No No No, Beirut’s first new album in over four years, is a unique one in his catalogue. No No No feels like the antithesis to the band’s earlier and more complex albums, including Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup. However, it seems too simple in comparison with the understated and compelling The Rip Tide. Not only does the album lack the distinctive, eclectic energy typical of Beirut, but it misses the depth and sincerity characteristic of Condon’s voice and lyrics. Instead of the band’s usual complex instrumental layering, No No No features simplistic trumpet, guitar, and piano riffs throughout. Rather than nine distinct songs, the whole album comes across more like two or three tracks. The songs, all lasting from two to four minutes, greatly contrast with the four-to-five-minute epics Beirut has produced in the past. While the album contains numerous radio-friendly tracks such as “Perth” and “Gibraltar,” the rest of the melodies fade into the background, easily forgotten and often difficult to distinguish.
Where earlier albums like Orkestar and The Rip Tide suggest scenes of havoc and mayhem, intense love and loss, and joyful days cast over by dark clouds, No No No does not evoke such strong scenes, nor does it want to. Even No No No’s more serious songs, like “At Once,” suggest not a strong feeling of sadness and compelling loss like “The Rip Tide” or “Rhineland (Heartland)” from earlier albums, but a more overarching and vague sense of confusion and sadness.
Now, this is not to say that the album isn’t worth a listen. While it isn’t as memorable as Beirut’s prior work, No No No is still a nice album to enjoy while sitting in a coffee shop or reading in the park. Unfortunately, this is precisely what makes it forgettable. Lacking in emotional power and Beirut’s usual eccentricity, it is difficult for the album to make a lasting impression