Noble Beast has turned out to be an album that has divided fans of Andrew Bird. For those who were drawn in my by the glorious accessibility of Andrew Bird & The Mysterious Production Of Eggs or the jagged thoughtfulness of 2007’s Armchair Apocrypha (or indeed any of his other albums with or without his Bowl of Fire behind him), Noble Beast came as something of a challenge to the listener. It seems to have become synonymous with the term “grower”, many defenders demanding that those sceptical of it give it more time to reveal itself. I myself am a defender, I find Noble Beast to be yet another glorious turn by Bird, progressing in seemingly gentler ways but upping his game both musically and lyrically.
Fitz And The DizzySpells EP follows on the trail of Noble Beast, offering the listener the title track along with re-workings of a few of the songs found on the original album along with a new version of relatively unnoticed song “Sectionate City”. On Bird’s Soldier On EP we were dealt with an instrumental called “Sectionate City” which then sounded like an addition to the final instrumental track of Armchair Apocrypha. Since then it has made gradual appearances, most notably perhaps when Bird made an appearance on Live From The Basement where he brought words to the music, which itself has become a different creature. It sounded majestic and acts as a prime example of the creative prowess of Bird along with just generally being engrossing.
On the Fitz And The Dizzyspells EP “Sectionate City” is fleshed out with guitar jabs and slow hits of the snare drum. But the most intriguing part comes at the last minute when Bird fades away his violin and out comes the static of a radio tuner going through all the stations it can find. It’s an oddly experimental touch to add in but it’s good to see Bird not only moving about in his comfort zone but also engaging with technology in his music. As for the song itself, it’s still great but admittedly I find the version From The Basement better for the organic touch.
As for the other tracks, again it’s always great to see how Bird can re-interpret his own work. “Ten-you-us” is merely an acoustic version of the “Tenousness” (as might be guessed). It’s all kept very simple and charming and Bird even refrains from whistling, almost inviting the listener to do so. “See The Enemy” works better in that it’s actually reconfigures “Anonaminal”, breaking apart the song and putting equal emphasis on every aspect from the superb word play of the lyrics to the melodies that lie underneath. Finally “The Nightshade Gets In” gives the listener a glimpse into how the sparkling and spunky intro to the title track on the EP came about.
The main problem with the EP is that it’s hard to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t heard or enjoyed Noble Beast. Those who are still giving the album plays or just those interested in Bird’s work in general will find something to like here, even if it is just the title track. No track is set in stone for Bird as those who have been to one of his live shows will know. But as long as he keeps creating and re-creating music, there will always be those more than happy to listen, even if it does take them some to realise this.