Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs
One of the great struggles of any civilized person is how to most smoothly make the transition between the energy and reckless zeal of youth and the staid security of being old without becoming either a cartoon or a warning fable. We have collectively gotten the message that the 40-year old man in a red sports car is remarkably played, but how are we to maintain our cool without that default mechanism of the obvious mid-life crisis? There seems to be a half-nelson reverse backlash lately of adopting ones golden years too early, whether it manifest itself as being methinks‚Äìthe-lady-doth-protest-too-much Republican or the omnipresence of microfleece on men at Circuit City. No one here is suggesting we buy into the whole metrosexual thing (though I could recommend some great soaps to you, if you are, y'know, into that sort of thing) or anything, but there exists then a void in which many of us not able to accept NASCAR as our personal saviors inevitably tumble. Fortunately, Euterpe, the Greek muse of music has put her people on the problem and created the new genre of Cool Adult Music.
Cool Adult Music comes from many a different direction, whether it be the folk macram?© of Richard Buckner, the old-timey-ness of Jolie Holland, the master songwriter of Rufus Wainwright or the deconstructed rock of My Morning Jacket, it all is able to hold onto its root form, while adding a sheen of intelligence and just a smear of darkness, just to make it known that we haven't completely given up and are jamming out to Billy Joel greatest hit collections in our overpriced sedans. Andrew Bird is a welcome new practitioner in this field. I say new, even though he's been around for a while, coming to the surface initially as a bench member of the one-song-movement Squirrel Nut Zippers, and honing his own sense of the music as Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire. Much is made of the fact that Mr. Bird is hailed as a "professional whistler" and a classically trained violinist, but instead of these two factors being a musical albatross, he seamlessly weaves these exemplary skills into his majestic and snaky beautiful songs on Andrew Bird & the Mysterious Production of Eggs.
It opens with an untitled instrumental track showing the raw ingredients of his magic act: whistling, violin, acoustic guitar and beautifully subtle vibraphone. "Sovay" will put you in the mind of the sugar-coated dalliances of Rufus Wainwright, but instead of RW's Oscar Wilde-esque admissions of guilt, Bird's songs are (if I may continue the shameless avian analogies) intricately constructed cozy nests of twigs and silver chains and feathers, cradling the sonic eggs indeed mysteriously produced as suggested by the title. The press stated that he scrapped this album 3 times before finally coming to a version he wanted to release, and it shows. These songs are well-worked over sculptures smoothened by his loving and knowing touch. The instant classic thesis statement "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" contains some brilliant devastatingly clever turns of phrase like
You're what happens with two substances collide
And by all accounts you really should have died
before rolling into full gallop. There are many different flavors making up this savory album like the sweeping Eastern European folk violin stabs on the opening of "Fake Palindromes" or the counterpoint of staccato violin and Marc Ribot like guitar on "Banking on a Myth" but the tie tat binds is the deft voice and biting curious lyrics of Mr. Bird. Another winner is "MX Missiles" where his incredible whistling (and calling whistling 'incredible' is not a compliment I just give out like Halloween candy, it really is compelling) gives way to a number of scene changes and insect-like percussion.
All in all, this is one damn beautiful album. Like all the great albums of this Cool Adult Music, you feel smart, erudite and sensitive listening to it. The love he put into this third-times-the-charm is positively infectious. Its one that will captivate any cool listener you turn it onto, not with dazzling virtuosity or bombast (though touches of both are in there), but the bright warm light emanating from it.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com