Music Review: Andrew Bird's Noble Beast

by Vincent Lee

On Andrew Bird's Soldier On, he performed a thrilling cover of Bob Dylan's “Oh Sister.” This was a prime example of what makes Bird's music unique and special. By using many different instruments, Bird creates layered and complex songs. This signature style has resonated throughout each of Bird's albums and continues on in Noble Beast. Unfortunately, as grand as this idea sounds, on Bird's fourth solo album it feels over done and grossly repetitive at times. The final result is an average album that leaves a great first impression, but eventually wears upon multiple listens.

Noble Beast has fourteen songs, clocking in at 54 minutes, with three songs that are of minimal length. As mentioned before, Bird uses wide variety of different instruments. On certain songs, such as “Souverian,” as the song develops, Bird changes both the instruments and tempos of the song creating something that feels like several songs in one. Throughout the record, he does a fantastic job of transitions from song to song with each song flowing seamlessly into the next.

Lyrically, Bird finds himself capable of doing things most musicians would fail at miserably. He uses rather large and verbose words without ruining the ebb and flow of the song. This is mostly notable in the songs “Effigy” and “Nomenclature.” Additionally, many of the songs are rather catchy despite their wordy nature. Similar to the way his songs are constructed musically it appears as if Bird is doing a lot, but the end result is something simple and clear.

Aftera all that one might believe that Bird has created some kind of balanced masterpiece that is both complex yet pleasant musically and lyrically. However, the end result is something extremely short of that goal. Although, in a sense, everything Bird does works, after more than a few listens it eventually gets tiring and it feels like there is nothing really special to push the record to another level. Many times it feels like Bird is about to do something really great, but by the end of the song, nothing has really happened. Noble Beast is both great and horribly flawed. Longtime fans of Bird will most likely eat up this record as it is, in many ways, more of the same from Bird. The rest will most likely have mixed feelings. Noble Beast is a solid album with a wealth of untapped potential.

(The photo of Andrew Bird performing at California's Coachella Festival in 2007 is by thetripwirenyc via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license. Bird resumes his world tour on Sunday, Jan. 25 in Philadelphia, PA. To see Bird performing "Natural Disaster" from Noble Beast in a live setting in Berlin in November of 2008, please check below.)

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