The prodigious Chicago violinist’s new work makes no concession to the baroque melancholy of the already-distant “Andrew Bird And The Mysterious Production Of Eggs”. It is luminous, so joyful and overpowering that it can make you feel indestructible.
Indestructible like the festive “Polynation” (where Bird gets on the good side of the boys in an Irish pub from another time, with a folk attack we might call pop-polka) or like the elegant, muscular “Near Death Experience Experience” (where Bird plays gypsy jazz—our Bird, that is, not Charlie Parker).
“Eyeoneye” is sort of like the “boombastic” side of “Oh No”, the first cut off of the glorious “Noble Beast”. But if “Noble Beast” – a folk fable made from virtuoso violin and clever whistling – catapulted his sound to what were then the highest heights of his list of very personal releases, “Break It Yourself” goes beyond even that. It dismantles songs – “Danse Caribe” is put together and taken apart like a special Lego Bird. It explodes with country energy – the desperate banjo of the spectacular and hypnotic, baroque and vibrant, “Orpheo Looks Back”. It turns even precious lullabies ( “Sifters”) into outbursts of energy and imagination.
Bird is on top form, building his classy and singular pop out of layers and layers of country imagination. Even tap-dancing bears are included, in “Fatal Shore”. His vocal harmonies are increasingly complex ( “Lusitania”), and he really lets go with “Hole In The Ocean Floor”, which more like a tree than a song. It is a story to live in, a cabin in the forest, surrounded by undergrowth with magical properties (everything that Bird touches becomes something magical, in the same sense that Roald Dahl stories, like the “Fantastic Mr. Fox” were).
It is the perfect prelude to “Belles”, the cut that appropriately rings time on the record. It is one of the album’s two instrumental cuts (the other is the dense but soft, dark and very short “Behind The Barn”). Both of them are light years away from those included on the almost anecdotal “Useless Creatures”, the instrumental album of discarded cuts that followed “Noble Beast”, an invertebrate oddity which, without a doubt, didn’t live up to any of his other releases.
Definitely, what started to develop, with more timidity (and lo-fi baroque) on “Music Of Hair” and “Thrills” has finally matured into a classic sound. Let’s say that “Noble Beast” laid the groundwork and “Break It Yourself” has got the job done.