US - Illinois - Full Moon 191 - 04/06/12
Break It Yourself
Mom+Pop (US) / Bella Union (UK)
I became a fan of Andrew Bird's music some years ago when a friend gave me the fantastic The Mysterious Production of Eggs (Righteous Babe 2005)
album; one of the best albums since year 2K, if you're asking me. 2007's Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum) was an excellent follow-up to Eggs,
and Noble Beast (Fat Possum 2009) once more showed proof of what Andrew Bird was up to; high quality skills when it comes to song-writing, performing, and arranging ear-candy pop songs. I missed Bird's visit to Oslo (at the legendary So What! club) in 2005(?), but I was present at his second Oslo visit (Rockefeller, this time) in August 2009. And, yes, it was a magic, almost breathtaking evening.
Bird has changed his - at least of later years - three-year-cycle for releasing records. Break It Yourself, his 9th album (including Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire
albums), hit the streets three years after Noble Beast. But Bird has been busy with other stuff as well during the last years. Last year he contributed a song to
the Muppets: The Green Album cover compilation; a take on the Kermit the Frog classic "Bein' Green". Some two years ago Andrew Bird was recruited for
The Voice Project (a multimedia music-based non-profit initiative focused on aiding women's groups in several African countries
where horror and death are spread by this Christian fundamentalist militant group, LRA). For this project Bird (along with praised singer-songwriter Priscilla Ahn on
sweet harmonies) performed and recorded "Meet Me Here At Dawn" by one of Bird's favourite artists; the punky folk-songwriter Cass McCombs (who's "unobtrusively brilliant",
according to John Peel). Bird has also partnered with sculptor and instrument-maker Ian Schneller on a performance and installation project (involving speakers made from
recycled newspapers and dryer lint!). So, what about Bird's style and quality, then? Can he still deliver on a high level?
Both yes and no. During the first spins of the new album, I thought this was sounding like a bleak and faded Andrew Bird album. Like he's been recording some left-over songs, lacking the energy and spirit of his aforementioned albums. Of course, the song-writer Andrew Bird still knows how to come up with an appealing and delicious tune. And, the multi-instrumentalist Bird has got loads of skills when it comes to vocals (whistling included), guitars and his violin. And, yes, he's a pro when it comes to creating multi-layer songs and soundscapes, with perfect grooves and moods. Such as in opener "Desperation Breeds". "Eyeoneye", from its energetic kick-off riff is a great track, and one of the catchier songs in Bird's catalogue. "Near Death Experience Experience" is also quite fascinating, and a sort of typical Bird song. "Sifters" is a fine
track, and "Orpheo Looks Back" is a catchy, exotic one. However, Break It Yourself isn't good enough as a whole album. Especially for an album lasting for an hour (14 tracks, all together, including some instrumental parts).
Anyway, Break It Yourself keeps growing on me, but I'm not sure if it will remain in my jukebox throughout the year. Yet, Andrew Bird's still a cool and different
artist. As I saw one reviewer said: "[Andrew Bird] ...follows the same definition of 'quirky' that people use for Wes Anderson movies". Quite a good description, or
labelling of Bird.
Copyright © 2012 Håvard Oppøyen