Noble Beast

Andrew Bird

Fat Possum, 2009

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Pay no attention to that letter grade; it doesn’t matter. Andrew Bird’s newest album Noble Beast has been assigned a grade because the Daily Vault requires it and they require it because every other critical outlet does. At least the Vault has the decency to place the grades at the bottom of the review so readers are encouraged to read before seeing the sometimes deceptive or misleading grades.

Make no mistake; Noble Beast is a good record.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As Andrew Bird’s newest solo studio album, Noble Beast -- above all else -- is a testament to the whistling multi-instrumentalist’s strength as a writer, a player, and producer. Like all Bird records, what listeners will find here is a phenomenally cohesive project overflowing with innovation and ambition. Intimately recorded acoustic guitars, sophisticated use of electrics, stunning violin work, and Bird’s own strikingly perfected whistling are all united here for a tour de force of determined and fine-tuned musical aptitude. Top all that with Bird’s exceedingly pleasant vocals and what you get in the end is a record that solidifies the songwriter as one of America’s best.

Noble Beast starts out strong with the immensely likeable “Oh No” and presses forward from there with the deliciously Jose Gonzalez-esque “Masterswarm.” The uppity “Fitz And The Dizzyspells” is a welcomed precursor to the slow-burning and mostly filler of a track “Effigy,” which leads straight into the excellently executed “Tenuousness.” Alas, where Noble Beast suffers is in its overstuffed track listing. Fourteen tracks in all, there’s too much to sift through here, and in the end fifty-four minutes is simply too much of a commitment for which to ask given the album’s overall strength.

Nobody’s calling Bird’s talent to task, but somehow his final products always seem to play out like a coffee shop albums or Sunday morning house-cleaning music. Perhaps he’s in need of some self-editing, perhaps not. That’s for you to decide. Noble Beast isn’t a C+ effort in the grand scheme of things, but this is pop music and so Bird must be measured against his contemporaries.

It’s only a C+ in the 2009-fast-changing-popular-music-world sense.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2009 Kenny S. McGuane and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Fat Possum, and is used for informational purposes only.