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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Album review: Beirut indie-rockers storm a distant land with brawny album, Distant Rendezvous

The success of Who Killed Bruce Lee's brave bid could signal the first splatters of a breaking wave of Middle Eastern indie, or the opening breath of a collective sigh of breaking hearts.
From left to right, Who Killed Bruce Lee's Hassib Dergham (keyboards); Wassim Bou Malham (guitar), Malek Rizkallah (drums) and Pascal Sarkis (bass).
From left to right, Who Killed Bruce Lee's Hassib Dergham (keyboards); Wassim Bou Malham (guitar), Malek Rizkallah (drums) and Pascal Sarkis (bass).

Distant Rendezvous

Who Killed Bruce Lee

(Brainstorm Music Marketing)

Four stars

There is more than a little hope riding on Who Killed Bruce Lee’s debut LP.

The Beirut band are one of the Middle East’s biggest musical success stories, and Distant Rendezvous – with producer Victor Van Vugt, who has worked with Nick Cave and Depeche Mode among others, at the helm – arrives after a crowdfunded move to Berlin last year.

The quartet, who formed in 2009, are now at the outset of a 100-date, make-or-break tour of Europe. Ever looking outward, and rarely content simply with praise from their contemporaries, Who Killed Bruce Lee are one of the rare regional acts taking their music on the road to Europe and North America.

The outcome of their brave bid could signal the first drips of a breaking wave of recognition, or the opening breath of a collective sigh of breaking hearts.

They’ve certainly got the goods. Distant Rendezvous is a meaty set of indie-rock stormers, bottling the band’s brawny live sound but offering few surprises.

It begins with the driving, laddish anthem Room for Three, a 2013 single that packs a rigid guitar hook that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Arctic Monkeys record.

The album is thrilling stuff, in the main. The title track is propelled with urgent passion and restless riffing. A swampy swagger drives big bad blues on Born Addicted.

A distinct sense of illicit, after-hours danger n’ decadence pervades – on Enemy at the Line, over savage minor-key guitar stabs you can sense lead singer Wassim Bou Malham winking as he screams: “Beirut is the place to go – when I need it.”

The quiet electro shimmer of Wasted Times is intriguing, a downbeat, downtempo dirge over mournful organ chords and preprogrammed beats, as is the LCD Soundsystem-aping indie-disco strut, Mastercraft.

Who Killed Bruce Lee have done a fine job of distilling a cross-section of the past decade’s indie trends.

Fingers crossed that Distant Rendezvous gets the international attention it deserves – with the band going on, hopefully, to develop their individual sound for future releases.

* Rob Garratt

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: April 11, 2016 04:00 AM

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