I’ll just get this out of the way right now—Little Beirut is not, in fact, tapes of Zach Condon playing ukelele as a child. As entertaining as that might have been, the Portland quartet that goes by the name of Little Beirut is actually something much better. Taking their name from a George Bush quote about their home city, which met the former president with more than a little animosity, Little Beirut is a power-pop band, and a rather good one at that, making the case once again for underground, yet radio friendly pop backed with a hefty, distorted crunch.
On High Dive, Little Beirut’s new full-length, the foursome show off some songwriting chops that recall some of the greatest power pop groups of the ’90s, without sounding so dated. Leadoff track “She’s A Martyr” recalls the likes of The Posies and Nada Surf, with a driving rhythm and powerful surge of overdrive. Yet it’s polished and sleek, with Hamilton Sims’ melodic vocals adding that extra something special, which makes you wonder when this tune will become a hit already. It’s that good. On a more realistic level, “Sniper’s Lament” actually has more of a Starbucks/VH-1 sound that actually does move units these days. That said, it’s far better than any Fray song I’ve heard.
Little Beirut gets back to rocking on “Acid Wash Soul,” with two sharply ringing guitars that trade jabs during the urgent verse, while some glockenspiel converts the chorus into a soaring, glorious ascent. “The Lottery” kicks off with all of the bombast of vintage Who, while a shimmering Ride-like atmosphere engulfs the dreamy verses. And like all the songs that precede it, its chorus is an exercise in melodic heroism, exploding with energy and honing in on that perfect balance of chops and hooks.
They don’t make bands like Little Beirut much anymore. In fact, I would almost expect to hear a band like Beirut, with Neutral Milk Hotel and European folk influences, rather than one that sounds like, say, Remy Zero. That Little Beirut is so unapologetically hook-laden and primed for Alternative Nation makes them that much more of a surprise, and quite a pleasant one at that. I scarcely turn on the radio anymore, but if a band like Little Beirut were to receive a few spins now and then, I might just risk the onslaught of 311 and Panic! At the Disco just to hear it.
Remy Zero – Villa Elaine
Superdrag – Regretfully Yours
Nada Surf – The Weight Is a Gift
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.