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Andrew Bird
Armchair Apocrypha
Fat possum Records
www.fatpossum.com


On first spin, longtime fans may experience a longing for Andrew Bird's folk beginnings. The fiddle playing has been relegated to muted watercolor backgrounds and his masterful whistling appears only as brief accents. The second time through finds a reluctant acceptance of his recent melan-poppy leanings. The brilliant lyrics still shine through what most closely resembles Britpop in the Radiohead/Coldplay vein, going back as far as James. When the predestined third listen comes around, Bird's disconnected sleepy delivery and painfully beautiful melodies have already entered the listener's blood stream and begun attacking passing cells.

The initial sorrow evidenced in "Fiery Crash" draws from The Velvet Underground, but allows a hopeful resolve. And despite being about a fear of flying, the song has no problem soaring. A cleaned-up samba feel on "Imitosis" is like Santana making spy music. "Plasticities" is held down by a buzzing bassline like The Equals, but explores other sixties forms like Burt Bacharach, chimes and those musical wine glasses. "Heretics" is as infectious as anything from Mysterious Production Of Eggs. It's Jim Carroll delivery with curious lyrics, "You're bound to get post-natal/ what did I just hear you say?/ thank God it's fatal/ we don't want to hear the sound of a door/ we don't want to read the signs that you bore." For all its cool plodding and Theremin-replicated whistle, "Armchairs" emerges into something emotionally powerful. Bird's understanding of dynamics and theatrics make it an epic number punctuated by big piano attacks and heavy guitar delay.

Assisting musicians include Bowl Of Fire drummer Kevin O'Donnell, keybord/ percussionista Martin Dosh and vocals from Haley Bonar, who still has not sent me her new record Big Star. Bird's arrangements rarely have two instruments following the same line, so interplay and countermelodies are constantly in effect. At ends, the guitars bring back early U2 and nods for top-notch production. Bird has a knack for turning clinical subject matter like Petri dishes and DNA into warm patches of human experience. By examining miniscule occurrences that don't seem obviously worthy to note, he leads us to powerful observations on the big picture. Keen on questioning himself, his version of introspection is to turn himself inside out so all can see.

-Ewan Wadharmi


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