Beirut have an unmistakable sound. You could play me any track by them and I would just know it was a track by Beirut. And okay, maybe bands need to have some kind of distinct sound; otherwise, what’s the point? But really, when all of your songs sound pretty much identical, with what sounds like the same three chords on a keyboard, and the vocals calm and mellow in every track, I think it has gone too far.
I want bands to pioneer, to experiment, to change up their sound from album to album, because people change, and surely multiple people expressing themselves through music would change in sound over a few years? Many bands do this flawlessly, such as Vampire Weekend, Bombay Bicycle Club…I could go on.
I just wish Beirut could do the same thing, but sadly the title No No No says it all.
Please don’t get me wrong - this isn’t bad music. Beirut is clearly comprised of good musicians, and when they mix it up even a little bit, I really enjoy the sound. The violin slides in So Allowed are cool, and give a really nice texture to the track. The drumming in Gibraltar, which opens the album, is also interesting and mixes it up a little bit. Beirut play excellent chilled, listen-while-you-study music, perfect for the background, or when you’re hanging out with your friends in your living room with some beers and want to have something on that won’t obstruct your conversation.
And the album improves as it goes on, with some pretty nice tracks following on from the really lovely instrumental As Needed. A little bit reminiscent of Fleet Foxes in style, the guitar riff is really pleasant and the piano takes off its usual tinny after-effect to become really quite mellow and fits in well. Again, the strings add some much-needed texture, and the whole track has a really lovely calming feel.
I also love the chunky guitar riffs at the beginning of Perth, which juxtapose nicely to follow on from the gentleness of As Needed. But this just isn’t enough to change the fact that this is a pretty standard album.
If you love Beirut, you’ll love No No No. If you like a casual, chilled-out indie vibe, stick it on your study playlist. Done.