Beirut Lon Gisland EP

[Ba Da Bing!; 2007]

Rating: 3/5

There’s something so intoxicating about listening to Beirut that I begin to question my own enjoyment of them. Zach Condon’s songs are punctuated by some sublimely evocative moments, of course, but the sometimes wide gulfs between these moments can prove themselves to be rarely more than agreeable. The fluid fullness of that chorus of horns, the precious uke strums, the now almost obligatory -- but always welcome -- accordion, the general soft-edgedness of the proceedings, not to mention that milky, adenoidal vibrato of Condon’s: they make it impossible not to be won over. And isn’t that suspicious?

True to form, the between-meal-snack Lon Gisland is unfalteringly very nice. This five-track EP gathers Condon’s touring band together under one roof to record some of his new material in anticipation of this autumn’s full-length follow-up. If I hadn’t been told that Condon isn’t responsible for the bulk of these performances, I simply wouldn’t have noticed, which is a testament to how skilled a musician he is. As it is, the band work together beautifully and leave the record extremely taut. Sonically, it’s overwhelming and practically perfect.

Opener “Elephant Gun” is a stunning piece, and one of the best that Condon’s written. It begins a bit like Gulag’s “Postcards from Italy,” with a lone ukulele and voice, but unfolds into a lofty mid-tempo waltz marked by a horn motif filled at once with triumph, awe, and mournful resignation. It’s then checked by the go-nowhere instrumental “My Family’s Role in the World Revolution,” whose propulsive horns and piano chug and chug aimlessly for two minutes, helping to depict in just two tracks what it sounds like when Beirut succeed and what it sounds like when Beirut fail.

Gulag’s “Scenic World” is slowed down a bit, its electronics removed for a more vivid, organic rendition; “The Long Island Sound” is 78 more seconds of that great horn line from “Elephant Gun” just for the hell of it; and closer “Carousels” is a nice dizzy, tangled number that only barely outstays its welcome. What it all amounts to is 16-and-a-half minutes of Beirut being Beirut, which isn’t (or can’t be) a bad thing, though only memorable for “Elephant Gun,” which, if Condon’s hearing the same song I am, will likely appear on the next LP anyway. No real revelations here – this one’s for collectors.

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