Andrew Bird – Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird
Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs

Andrew Bird’s delightful music is rooted always in his excited – almost boyish – cacophony of lyrical experimentation. He mixes and splits words like chemicals in beakers, attempting to formulate the cure for your musical boredom. See Bird slightly slurring the lines “My dewy-eyed Disney bride what has tried / swapping your flood with formaldehyde?” and “Whiskey-plied voices cried fratricide! / Jesus don’t you know that could’ve died / you should’ve died” on the masterful “Fake Palindromes.” The literal meaning of these lyrics is unimportant when one considers their literary genius. Even as I stare down at the lyrics sheet, a not-slightly absurd picture makes sense of it all: soft-edged vowels float above the grass below in whirling dervish patterns, leaving their shadows, and the constraints of worldly gravity, behind. What an apt depiction of Bird’s verbal experimentation.

Add into this mix an eclectic blend of instrumentation, and you have the basic essence of Andrew Bird and the Mysterious Production of Eggs. Bird trades primarily in wistful indie-pop flavored with a touch of jazz and a bit of rock, creating a sound that is simple without being boring, gentle without being down-tempo. “A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left” is sublime chamber-pop; what seems like a dozen stringed instruments are plucked in differing intervals with Bird floating his detached croon effortlessly above the fray. The raucous violin solo on the aforementioned “Fake Palindromes” is the closest Bird comes to the Dionysian ecstasy that he seems to hint at throughout the album. “Banking on a Myth” features a very interesting juxtaposition of heavenly, baroque harp plucks with a spaghetti-Western guitar solo. These unexpected influences melt away into a transcendent indie-pop melody. And the weirdest thing is, it all makes sense.

“Masterfade” is built around Bird’s faultless songwriting. His voice contains the detached, crooning style of Julian Casablancas, the wavering falsetto of Thom Yorke, the home-cooked brilliance of Will Oldham, and even a tinge of the melodramatic theatricality of Colin Meloy. Midway through the song, Bird delivers a whistling solo – really, he whistles for about a minute – and as a result, I’m left wondering how the serious musical expression of whistling has remained untapped. Like much of what Andrew Bird does, whistling has been erstwhile treated as a mere novelty. Bird, however, elevates this and other curiosities to the limelight, and the result transcends its fundamental newness.

Genre mash-ups this ambitious aren’t easy to come by; albums that accomplish that goal with the effortless grace of Eggs are even rarer. Running the risk of pedaling cliché, in listening to Eggs (or indeed any Andrew Bird release), the listener is exposed to simultaneous traces of The Flaming Lips, Duke Ellington, Guided by Voices, Pavement, and any number of other, equally unlikely sources of inspiration, yet it comes across as something entirely idiosyncratic and individual. How Bird has guzzled so many, and so disparate, influences and funneled them down into a more personal distillation remains a mystery. In listening to The Mysterious Production of Eggs, one encounters at first only Andrew Bird singing; but if you listen closely enough, you can hear a chorus of voices from the past joining him in song.