The Rip Tide

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5.00
After two albums of lovingly crafted European tinged folk music (2006's Gulag Orkestar and 2007's The Flying Club Cup) many fans will be surprised that the band have returned after a four year break with, what is essentially, a pop record. It takes many of their established flourishes and seems to aim them directly at the nu-folk generation (this may be accidental as Mumfords et al might not have been on the radar when much of this album was written but it grates all the same). To be fair to the band it's a competent attempt at the genre and a change in direction may be the making of them but it's hard to imagine that a large portion of their fan base won't be turned off by the mainstream folk and random soulless keyboard hooks (see "Santa Fe", "Vagabond") which rear their ugly head on some of these offerings. The brass which runs right through this record sparks memories of Brit Pop and sounds weirdly synthetic (even though I'm assured that it's the real deal), this in itself is surprising for a band that have previously produced such a lush and authentic sound. Similarly, the layered vocals and accordion combo is something I usually associate with great warmth but here Beirut somehow manage to make it sound as cold as it comes. The record isn't entirely without charm though, "Goshen" is undoubtedly a highlight sounding like Antony Hegarty or The Miserable Rich and builds to a rather nice climax. There are snippets of other tracks that also make the grade but none really satisfy in the way we've been accustomed to. The Rip Tide is an immediate record, an easy listen and a step in a different direction, unfortunately for us though it's a disappointing step backwards.