Beirut – Gallipoli review

Secret Meeting score: 86

by Joseph Purcell and Phil Scarisbrick

Eastern European Gypsy and Balkan Folk are genres that rarely cut through into the Western musical lexicon, but when paired with the heartfelt prowess and zany originality on show on Gallipoli, Zach Condon displays, once again, that a journey through a Beirut album is a totally unique proposition.

Opening with a subtlely strummed acoustic, which is layered under Condon’s trademark brass, When I Die builds into an army of intricate sounds. Accentuated by his majestic vocal, pitched somewhere between Rufus Wainwright and Morrissey, the melodies blossom, rather than shifting in a more traditional binary structure.

The prolonged opening shimmer of the title track encapsulates this. Melodic phrasings are distinctive yet, at times, jarring – evoking memories of the majestic The Flying Club Cup. The opening thirty seconds marry together a beautiful, harmonious wall of sound – finding an artist at his wistful best, and bringing his role of conductor to the fore.

Varieties of Exile sees Condon abandon words, instead choosing vocal tones that carry an air of exuberance- allowing the listener to contrive whatever meaning they can for themselves – before it really comes to life with Nick Petree’s sumptuous percussion. On I Giardini, Condon tackles the almost intangible elements of existence as he sings – “You have direct design and stare/The call to someone barely there/Reach for the glass and stir the air/It’s no so often, not so rare”. While Gauze Fur Zah jumps along to precision keys. A dissecting horn and chorus of glorious vocals flirt over a majestic seven-minutes – and it very much feels like the natural epicentre of Gallipolli. Before second single, Landslide, pounds with its ceaseless churning beat, and Condon’s vocal aches with warmth and fragility.

As Condon says, telling stories is how humans truly get to know each other. Here though, the narratives he conveys are shrouded by subtle nuance to add just enough ambiguity to leave us feeling like we don’t really know him at all. While certain songs lean towards being about specific events, we learn little of their unfolding. Maybe Condon still isn’t ready to tell us fully what they mean to him, or maybe it is just a playful flirtation with his audience. Whatever it may be, Gallipoli is a record that demands your attention. And if you’re willing to give it, you will be rewarded with a sonically and emotionally captivating experience, that may just be the best of Condon’s career thus far.

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