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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Andrew Bird: The Mysterious Production Of Eggs


1) √; 2) Sovay; 3) A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left; 4) Fake Palindromes; 5) Measuring Cups; 6) Banking On A Myth; 7) Masterfade; 8) Opposite Day; 9) Skin Is, My; 10) The Naming Of Things; 11) MX Missiles; 12) ~; 13) Tables And Chairs; 14) The Happy Birthday Song.

I freely admit that an album that is called Mysterious Production Of Eggs, sports a picture of a green-tinged zombie goat (sheep?) on the sleeve, and borrows the sign of a square root for the title of its first composition, is a little hard to take seriously. But do we really know all the in­tri­cacies of the mechanism of egg production? Do we understand all the peculiarities of the co­louring of domestic bovids? Have we thoroughly explored all of the properties of the square root function? And if not, what right have we to ridicule Andrew Bird's symbolism, which may just as much be the result of a stunning spiritual revelation as it may be a load of baloney?

Regardless — my working hypothesis is that all of this is a load of baloney. The percentage rate of wheat to chaff in Andrew's lyrics this time hovers around 1:9, according to my intuition, and the words matter only inasmuch as they have an intonation attached. Intonations include a lot of questions and just as many plaintive notes, once again confirming Bird's «nerdy whiner» status; but now he has pushed his brand of dream-pop even further, expanding the number of used inst­ruments (in particular, there is much more acoustic and electric guitar playing on here than ever before) and making the background arrangements ever more complex, and this creates a very strange final impression. If Weather Systems was his high-up-in-the-clouds cozy little ivory to­wer, one in which he could lock himself with his small dedicated audience and shun the corrosion of the rest of the world, then on Production Of Eggs he seems intent on somewhat augmenting the property. Still behind barbed wire, but the stakes have moved: now he is not so much defen­ding his claim to intellectual paranoia as he is propagating it.

In other words, Production Of Eggs is still «dreamy», but it isn't nearly as «chamber»-like as its predecessor. 'Fake Palindromes', for instance, is a huge-soundin' mother, with a sweeping power-pop violin assault that we have not heard since Swimming Hour; 'Skin Is, My' is a fully vocali­zed re-recording of 'Skin' with a much denser sound that almost approaches pop-punk on the "what a lovely sound" chorus; and 'The Naming Of Things' is a stately anthem on which the man throws in a pinch of Old Testament fervor (not that anyone would ever get the message — pre­suming one existed in the first place).

All three of these songs will appeal immensely, I am sure, to the average pop fan who likes his music loud and crunchy. But the true soul of the record probably still lies in tracks like 'Sovay' and 'Masterfade', gentile, vulnerable ballads that are as much soaked in the Elizabethan spirit as they are genuine creations of the XXIst century. Their sweet, melodic, melancholic vibe is com­pletely at odds with lyrics like "Then you realize that you're riding on a para-success of a heavy­handed metaphor" (much as the latter is true for Mr. Bird), but only if you make the mistake of trying to decipher them in some sort of literal way.

Or maybe the album's true soul lies in 'Opposite Day', a song that moves from Beach Boys-like choral harmonies to Beatles-like psychedelia to Nick Drake-like hush-folk in several crudely joi­ned movements — and deals with the issue of turning into a cephalopod as "laws of physics lose their sway" and "those who can't quite function in society at large got to wake up on this morning to find that they're in charge". Because over the course of these fifty-plus minutes, it is indeed Andrew Bird who is in charge over your senses, and is there any doubt about his own ability to "function in society at large"? Like I said — the man is trying to expand his corner of the market, quite deliberately so.

And, actually, he succeeded: it was Production Of Eggs that, after almost a decade of shadowy existence, put him on some more widely distributed musical maps. The album got positive res­ponses from sources as distant from each other as Pitchforkmedia and Robert Christgau, and pre­t­ty much ensured that the next album would even make a Billboard presence. The fact that he achieved this without sacrificing a single shred of artistic credibility — only a total musical idiot would dare brand Eggs a «sellout» — is a small sign of hope.

Interesting trivia bit: Production Of Eggs was released on Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe label, which puts to rest the formerly rhetoric-idiotic question of «What does an introvert violin hack­man from Chicago and the head banner of East Coast feminism have in common?» (Other than this, of course). Thumbs up as usual, although beware: if Weather Systems puts you to sleep (in a bad way), Production Of Eggs is not at all guaranteed to wake you up (in a good way).


  1. Hello, George!

    Happy to see you're back again, I do dig your new reviews very much. As for the album, that's the record that got me into Andrew Bird and, unfortunately, stays the only Andrew Bird album I like from the beginning to the end. In fact, Weather Systems put me to sleep, yet this is not the case of Eggs. So bright and melodic, a real indie classic.

  2. The only Andrew Bird record I really enjoyed. A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left is terrific.

  3. The only Andrew Bird record I really enjoyed. A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left is terrific.