ANDREW BIRD: FINGERLINGS 2 (2004)
1) First Song; 2) Skin Is, My; 3) Master Fade; 4) Banking On A Myth; 5) MX Missiles; 6) Spanish For Monsters; 7) Sovay; 8) Way Out West; 9) Depression Pasillo; 10) Happy Day.
Having decided to make the Fingerlings project recurrent, Bird did not exactly give it his all to make the second volume as self-contained as one could perceive the first one. More properly, it's like one of those middle-of-the-road movie sequels which are still ruled by the original creator, but only by a chunk of his heart rather than the full load. «The original was great, let's do another one, not for the money, really, it just sucks to let this idea wither without exploring it down to its roots and seeing how far we can go with it».
Well, first of all, the album is almost completely redundant. Five out of ten songs are essentially preview versions of tracks on next year's Production Of Eggs, and, as excellent a live performer as Bird is, his reliance on synchronic loop-recording techniques chains him to the machine much the same way Pink Floyd used to be chained to their stage arrangements, meaning that there will be no great difference between live and studio playing aside from the understandably more sparse sound in the live setting. 'First Song' is from Weather Systems; 'Way Out West' and 'Depression Pasillo' hearken back to the Bowl of Fire days; and only two songs are unavailable elsewhere. Of these two, however, 'Spanish For Monsters' is a must-hear for all Bird fans, a bizarre hybridization of gypsy music with traditional blues.
He does try to adhere to the same build-up principle, starting off solo, then adding Norah O'Connor on two tracks, then joined by My Morning Jacket on one more, then rummaging in the archives to extract two more dusty Bowl Of Fire recordings, and then bringing it all back down with a soft, humble, friendly solo performance of a traditional folk tune. Somehow, though, the magic does not scintillate as brilliantly second time around — even though this is definitely not the material's fault. Maybe it's just a disgustingly sobering realization, somewhere in the back of the mind, that Fingerlings was, after all, a breakthrough in form and substance, but Fingerlings 2 makes it into formula, and no sequel faithfully regenerating the original can be completely worth the original.
On a pure heart level, this is the usual beauty coming from the usual Bird; but all the other system registers clearly indicate that its primary purpose is to stop the gap in awaiting the next true manifestation of Mr. Bird. No year without a new LP! And who's to stop you if you're almost guaranteed additional positive reviews in any case?