"You're what happens when two substances collide," Andrew Bird sings on "A Nervous Tic Motion Of The Head To The Left," one of the standout tracks on the new The Mysterious Production Of Eggs. But a stab of rationality undercuts the joyousness with the next line: "And by all accounts you really should've died." By Bird's reckoning, life's a miracle. It's just not always the good kind of miracle. Since going solo after recording with Andrew Bird's Bowl Of Fire, Bird has stopped looking back across the past century of music and started looking inward, creating unmistakably contemporary pop music with an equally unmistakable personal stamp. Bringing in whistling solos and mournful violins to round out the choruses, he creates a sound that's simultaneously wistful and a little sinister.
Some of Eggs' best songs begin like deadpan novelty numbers, then unexpectedly deepen as they go along. "Opposite Day" summons up a vision of cosmically mandated, though temporary, role reversal in which the misfits take over for the privileged. But the hypnotic strings and fuzzy guitar keep the laughs under wraps, as does Bird's obvious disappointment that Opposite Day exists only in his mind. The same mind fills "Fake Palindromes" with just that: Odd combinations of words that don't read the same from either end, but scan with a palindrome's awkward lyricism and backwards logic. ("My dewy-eyed Disney bride what has tried swapping your blood with formaldehyde? Monsters?")
The imagery is as clumsy as the music is intimate and stirring, and Bird knows how to work the juxtaposition. Musically, he lives in Opposite Day, a place where suggestive, emotionally reserved singing, twisty lyrics, and swirling melodies form the foundation of pop. He collides substances that shouldn't mix to create a sound that not only survives the impact, but thrives in the aftermath.