Review Summary: Would you like to play a game of truth or dare Mr. Bird?
Every moment that I thought about listening to Andrew Bird during the past few days, my mind wandered around my music library elsewhere. One can take a guess as to what recent album trumped every other album in my library, but Andrew Bird’s album Noble Beast
eventually rose above, for at least a few gratifying moments. Ever since Weather Systems
, Andrew Bird has been the voice of reason and elegance with his chipper slurs and brilliant wordplay. Bird’s lyrical topics have always intelligently pieced together behind swelling violins and crafty guitar riffs. In fact, Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs
, may just be his defining musical moment, even though his previous release, Armchair Apocrypha
, certainly held its own theatrically grand reputation. However, Noble Beast
takes a few steps back.
Immediately, something was missing. It wasn’t on a milk carton or even hidden within the tracks, it was lost
. The lack of indie-rock riffs that lifted his previous works (found in songs like “Heretic,” “Banking on a Myth,” and “Fake Palindromes”) have vanished and are now overtaken by an overall organic sound. In fact, there are no electric guitar riffs; instead, an intimate acoustical guitar and his sweeping violin head each song. The result is mixed. When his crafty violin work is at its best, the songs tend to thrive. Notably, the thick, lusciously layered gem “Anonanimal” is genuinely breathtaking. At times, it sounds like five or six different string arrangements are occurring at once and it shows how adequate Bird has become as looping what he plays. “Anonanimal” is capped off by playful clapping and wordplay, ‘see a sea anemone / the enemy / see a sea anemone / that’ll be the end of me.’ Musical bliss.
“Oh No” and “Masterfade” whistle along, one in a whimsical nature while the other giddily dances. The electronically enhanced “Not A Robot, But A Ghost” is a nice little pick-me-up containing a previous quirky electronic work by Dosh as a sample. On the triumphant side of things, the anti-material/personal security undertone of reworked “The Privateers” (formerly “The Confession” on a previous Andrew Bird album) leads that of a victory parade. Slowly building, percussion clacks and chimes away until a roar from Bird’s voice ignites the tune into a simple, cheerful song. And as said before, “Anonanimal” is as complex and complete as it gets, but not enough to be the
song that puts Noble Beast
over the hump.
This is not to say the rest of Noble Beast
is necessarily bad, but more or less overdrawn. In fact, it is hard to spot the sole reason, but it all feels a degree or two off. Each track, given individual attention, finds itself to be a new treasure behind Bird’s loop-based brilliance. However, as the album plays as a collective whole, tracks are lost and hardly memorable or distinguished. Exceptions do occur, but otherwise remains a blur.
There is a certain level of, ‘how does this NOT work?,’ that baffles my mind. Perhaps the problem is Andrew Bird’s consistent barrage of cutesy lyrical arrangements, the same arrangements that wrap my head and hang it out to dry. With Noble Beast
, time stands still for a brief moment until a song eventually hits a certain plateau, but sometimes that plateau can be too distant. Andrew Bird played it safe, and the resultant appears the same. Meanwhile, I will be looking for an album in my library that decided to take a risk.