With his last two albums, The Mysterious Production of Eggs and Armchair Apocrypha, Andrew Bird left behind the jazz sound that had been marked his earlier albums.
Noble Beast moves even further away from that and embraces a lush pastoral sound. The music is breathtaking from the opening song ‘Oh No’ (featuring Bird’s trademark whistling) to the album closer ‘On Ho’. Bird adds violin, guitar and vocals and is joined by a host of musicians including members of Lambchop. Bird’s lyrics have been criticised because he is arch and impersonal, never showing his true feelings. There is some truth to this, but his wordplay is evocative and poetic and fits perfectly with the mood of his music.
It is an impressive album, but there is something missing. The aforementioned ‘Oh No’, ‘Not a Robot, But a Ghost’ and ‘Fitz and the Dizzyspells’ are all great songs, but there is no ‘Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left’ or ‘Fiery Crash’ (from his previous albums) to really grab hold of you. Some of the songs are over long and the whole seems a little unsatisfying. However, it is the kind of album you need to live with and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was in my albums of the year list by the end of 2009.
Limited edition versions of the album come with a 2nd disc of instrumentals featuring percussion from Wilco’s Glenn Kotche.
by Dorian Rogers, Jan 2009