A New Nomenclature… [Andrew Bird]

Alright, we’re back from the Holidays with a look at an artist who is unequivocally, though not superfluously, or pompously, adept at proliferating and commiserating a complex, if not opulent diction…

…that means he uses big words.

Andrew Bird is educated and it shows. He graduated with a degree in music performance from Northwestern University, which in most cases means you’re a nerd who spent his 7 yrs of college getting 1 credit hour for three-hour-long classes and huddling in a practice room for dozens of hours a week. This turns most people into little more than a glorified one-instrument iPod that can playback Dvořák at parties.

Somehow Andrew Bird escaped college not only without a horrible regurgitative musical style, but also with enough wits about him to write both lyrically and musically enjoyable tunes.

Bird has been putting out good music since his days as Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire, but his solo-style takes his ingenuity to a new refreshing lyrical level. Let’s just glance for a second at an excerpt from the song “Lull” on his first solo album Weather Systems:

I’m all for moderation
But sometimes it seems
Moderation itself can be kind of extreme
So I join the congregation
Join the softball team
I went in for my conformation
Where incense looks like steam
I start conjugating proverbs
Where there once were nouns
This whole damn rhyme scheme’s
Starting to get me down…


Mmm. Yes. I see.

For the purposes of this post, I want to focus on Bird’s Album “Tres Tipique”: Noble Beast

This album is an example of Bird’s ability to unify his eclectic sound with solid  lyrics that are heavy enough to sink into your gut.  Let’s jump right in with Effigy:

If you come to find me affable
Build a replica for me
Would the idea to you be laughable?

Of a pale facsimile?
So would you come to burn an effigy?
It should keep the flies away

When you  long to burn this effigy
It should be
For the hours that slip away
Slip away

It could be you
It could be me
Walk in the door
Drinking for free
Carrying on with your conspiracies
Filling the room with a sense of unease

Fake conversations on a non-existent telephone
Like the words of a man who spent a little too much time alone

I don’t want to spend too much time alone

When you come to burn my effigy
It should keep the flies away

If you long to burn an effigy
It should be for the man whose lost a friend

Slips away

It could be you
It could be me
Walk in the door
Drinking for free
Carrying on with your conspiracies
Filling the room with a sense of unease

Fake conversations on a non-existent telephone
Like the words of a man who spent a little too much time alone

I don’t want to spend too much time alone


The diction used in art, whether it be literature or music, has moved from high/aristocratic language to the vernacular unilaterally over the last 1000 years or so. With that slow change comes the proliferation of art as well as a new aesthetic for the common man and the noble to share. It also brought with it a certain loss of precision found in language that Andrew Bird is slowly resurrecting–whether he knows it or not.

This poem depicts an exploration of pride in the self. The speaker is tired and somewhat needy asking if his memory is worth preserving beyond his death. This poem also exudes a pain born out of the daily malaise of life, the desperate ignorance of a man who spent a little too much time alone, and the annoyance at those people in life who seem unaware of their own impermanence and repetitive life.

Effigy represents a noticeable trend toward coming full circle and re-approaching “high” language, not for its status, but for its precision. With that precision comes again the risk of losing some listeners. Perhaps it is time for a type of music that forces listeners to take a closer look.

Check out our FB page to see some links to Videos of Andrew Bird you need to check out.

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