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Customer Review

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as Odd but more Uneven, 14 May 2007
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This review is from: Armchair Apocrypha (Audio CD)
When your principal instruments are violin, glockenspiel and whistling, you can be entitled to have an idiosyncratic approach to songwriting. Having recorded three albums taking in swing, jazz and rock `n' roll with his band, Bowl of Fire, Andrew Bird has moved into more restrained singer-songwriter territory with his solo albums. Armchair Apocrypha is the latest entry in that series, and the result is probably his most commercial (and, sadly, his least enthralling) album so far.

Laconic, knowing, inventive, clever ... Bird plays initially to the same audience as Rufus Wainwright, imbuing his songs with a world-weariness that is nicely undercut by his ear for melodic lines. Why, then, does he include two songs in the first three that sound like conventional guitar-driven alternative pop? "Fiery Crash" and "Plasticities" (sandwiching a song that, while strong, is a reworking of one from Bird's earlier Weather Systems album) make for a poor introduction to the new album. If commercial considerations have influenced the programming, then they have not necessarily been thought through.

With "Heretics" things settle down to a more familiar pattern, with Bird's violin taking centre stage. Things improve further with "Armchair", a long central ballad that is this album's most convincing track. The textures, built on gently revolving sounds (Bird is no stranger to the loop sampler), provide a suitably aquatic medium for a striking lyric gently supported by piano doubling. One is forcibly reminded of Rufus, not least in the fact that the brief guitar figure seems to ape the opening bar of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".

Later tracks - especially the instrumentals "The Supine" and the strikingly-entitled "Yawny at the Apocalypse" - are familiar Bird territory, which existing fans will enjoy and new listeners may find revelatory. For me, the anthemic "Cataracts" (an exquisitely sad ballad) was a slow burner, and there are details to enjoy in these songs: not least the lyrics, whose dramatic alternations between the surreal and the self-consciously poetic bear comparison with those of Joanna Newsom.

At first I found this album disappointing and it is only with repeated listening that its subtleties have become clearer. Nevertheless, new listeners should probably head to The Mysterious Production of Eggs to discover Bird's unquestionable brilliance.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Nov 2011 13:08:39 GMT
Lovely review, Sordel.
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Sordel
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: United Kingdom

Top Reviewer Ranking: 475