The Wanton Bishops's 'Under The Sun' is an Ode to Beirut
In the Lebanese blues-rock band’s latest album, Nader Mansour howls for the love of Beirut through a multitude of genres.
“It’s futile to dissect ‘Under The Sun’ and analyze its genres and styles; it is everything! It’s oriental, electronic, blues, rock n’ roll, psychedelic, surf, synth-pop, dance... it’s Lebanese Rock, a new genre, a blueprint for future music. It’s not fusion, it’s confusion; it’s not world music, it’s music from the world, for the world.”
Wanton Bishops’ lead vocalist Nader Mansour’s cautionary words serve as both a warning and teaser for the band’s newest album ‘Under the Sun’. Throughout all 36 minutes of listening, his words ring true; ‘Under the Sun’ echoes the undefinability of contemporary Middle Eastern existence.
Preaching oneness under the sun, most enthusiastically in their sixth track ‘We Are One’, the Wanton Bishops' newest album in seven years is an ode to Beirut, one that promises to unite the city’s divided polarity.
“We are the post-war generation, children of the gun, and it is our responsibility to give closure and direction to the future generations,” Mansour declares in ‘A Letter to Beirut, A City I Love’, a short essay he released in tandem with the album. “Between the war-ghosts, and the internet millennials, there’s a massive gap, and we are the link! We understand both worlds. The Stockholm syndrome and the total disconnect. We are both.”
Since their early beginnings in 2011, the Lebanese blues-rock band has been driven by the revolutionary vision of Beirut-native multi-instrumentalist and lead singer Nader Mansour. Their debut album ‘Sleep With The Lights On’ was released in 2012, a delta blues record inspired by the likes of RL Burnside and Muddy Waters, with the single sharing the same album’s name garnering over six million streams on Spotify. They later released their sophomore EP ‘Nowhere Everywhere’ in 2016 consisting of five rustic-blues tracks including ’Sailing Down’ which has almost three million streams on Spotify.
Earlier in late July 2023, the Wanton Bishops released the first track off ‘Under the Sun’, ‘Do What You’re Told’, an eerily psychedelic track, which was described eloquently by my late colleague and friend Youssef Armanios as “bringing megaphone-esque vocals with riot-inducing lyrics about imposed societal constructs, Big Brother’s constant surveillance, force-fed capitalism and news propaganda”.
At its core, ‘Under the Sun’ is a love letter to Beirut. Intention-filled instrumentals and obstinate lyrics firmly hold down the belief that Lebanon will stand on its feet, returning to its golden days powered exclusively by its people’s love.
In the track ‘Beirut’, this is made clearer than ever:
“Dance your night into the midnight sun
Tell all your friends how it’s really done
Bleed for years every time you dare
And no one cares, and no one cares
I’m not saying it to hear it back
But I love you
And I love to love you.”
Whilst ‘Beirut’ is the most explicitly expressive of the band’s love for their motherland, the very fusing of classic rock bridges with oriental sampling and a distinct sprinkle of habibi funk stands to symbolise devotion to Lebanon. The imminent resistance remitted on every track is a ballad of love in itself.
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