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
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.
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