Album Reviews

Album Review: Andrew Bird – Useless Creatures (Cooperative Music/Bella Union)

By | Published on Thursday 4 November 2010

Andrew Bird

The instrumental album ‘Useless Creatures’ was originally released as a bonus disc on the limited edition version of Andrew Bird’s 2009 LP ‘Noble Beast’.

It is utterly something special, I can’t stress this enough. Only when I saw Bird perform live for the first time last year did I realise just how excellent a musician this man really is, on top of his huge skills as a songwriter. And, for me, it is this album that fully demonstrates this fact on record. Sure, the jaunty whistles and tongue-clicks are on show, stamps that ultimately mark this as quintessentially “Andrew Bird”, but the composition on offer here goes to a whole new level.

It must have been daunting for Bird to take the instrumental route, given the effort he clearly puts into the words in his other songs, where the lyrics always tell rich and vivid stories. Though, despite the lack of words, you sense there is a story being told here too, while the atmosphere created makes this more exciting than anything else I’ve heard Bird create.

‘You Woke Me Up!’ is subtly dramatic, building up like a lost scene from ‘Fantasia’ – you can picture the life of a caterpillar from chrysalis to butterfly. ‘The Barn Tapes’ is weird and wonderful, while ‘Carrion Suite’, like ‘Dissent’, is melancholic, a powerful piece of music that actually hurts a little to listen to. ‘Useless Creatures’ is utterly compelling in its ability to tell stories without the need for spoken word. It’s experimental and bewitching, utterly eccentric and fantastical, antiquated without the gathering dust of unread books. TW

Physical release: 25 Oct
Press contact: Cooperative Music IH

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