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Wednesday, 25 January 2006 00:00

A mysterious masterpiece

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By Chris Cooper

Beautiful and alarmingly odd, Andrew Bird makes music that ambles pretty far outside description or categorization. “Chamber pop” perhaps? And what the heck is he talking about half the time? How did he find so many things that rhyme with formaldehyde in the song “Fake Palindromes”?

A Chicago native, Bird released one of the best albums of ’05, and ain’t nobody heard it but the lucky and curious few. Armed with a violin, guitar, glockenspiel, vocals, sampler and wicked whistling chops, Bird delivers 14 tracks of fractured goodness on The Mysterious Production Of Eggs, released on Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe record label.

From the utterly rocking (sans guitars) intro of “Fake Palindromes” to the insights of “Measuring Cups,” the entire album is satisfying, and thanks to a lush but never overbearing mix, it’s a great headphone experience.

Bird handles the majority of the instrumental and vocal duties on the album with assistance from longtime collaborators Kevin O’Donnell on drums and former Bowl of Fire band-mate Nora O’Connor providing harmonies on “Tables and Chairs.”

Treading a line vocally between Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright (without the nasal melodrama), Bird delivers his head-scratching wordplay in a relaxed, unhurried manner, which is somewhat disorienting considering the imagery found throughout the album — holes drilled in heads, broken teeth and glass, garbage choked waterways, and global financial destruction.

The treat, and challenge, is that Bird never, ever hands over his ideas on a platter. Frankly, I’ve listened to the album steadily for nearly a year now, and I’m just starting to figure some of it out. With his confident and stylistically coherent forays into Brazilian rhythms in “Skin is, my,” semi-electronic folksiness in the haunting and humorous “Tables and Chairs,” and twangy film noir meets Gypsy jazz verses of “Banking On A Myth,” Bird leaves you at a loss for words to describe the music, so I revel in its glorious confusion. Who cares what he’s talking about? It’s just a gorgeous thing to hear. Maybe that’s the point.

Jay Ryan’s cover artwork is just as astounding and whimsical as the album it decorates and further enhances the mystery.

The Mysterious Production Of Eggs is a lovely and twisted musical journey. The arrangements and production are impeccable. The lyrics are intelligent almost to a fault, and this guy deserves a Grammy more than most of those goofballs who actually might win one. But that’s beside the point. Since my limit is 5 stars, so be it: 5 big, green, goofy stars covered in an orange blanket. Andrew is an odd Bird, but he rocks.

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