Peek behind the disc itself to see yet another man in the moon, this one bug-eyed and wild, veins crisscrossing every which way until it appears the moon is hopped up on crank and caffeine...and, of course, a little of Andrew Bird's hot-hot-hot jazz, lifted wholesale from 1932 and transplanted into 1999 as though disco, punk, rap, punk-rap, and that whole Latino-pop explosion never happened. Give the man credit and hope he's good for it: Just when you think you've had enough swing to swing from a rope, along comes Mr. Bird in his wayback (or is that swayback?) machine to make it all seem perfectly normal to live so far in the past. That is, his yesterday jive is neither pop nor pedantic; it has its own heartbeat, borrowing nothing from Louis (Armstrong or Jordan, take your pick) and everything from people whose 78s my grandmother tossed out long before she left Brooklyn for Manhattan.
Though nothing gets my Hebrew heartstrings going like "The Ghost of Stephen Foster" from last year's Perennial Favorites -- which featured an Andrew Bird violin riff lifted straight from the shtetl -- the boy's got klezmer deep in his bones. (Jew can't beat that!) That, and lots of other golden trash he picked up while loitering down Tin Pan Alley late one night with the fellows from Le Quintette du Hot Club de France. Cynics will question the madness in the man's method -- one rather talented musician friend of normally excellent taste finds Bird and band "too commercial," which is like saying fried grease is "too healthy" -- but fear not the venerable vibe. Better still, Bird doesn't write like he's making a point: "I've got a new-found fangled / Fandango tango angle / And it keep things curious yes / And it makes folks furious." It don't mean a thing, but it sure got that swing.