Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
There’s nothing lovely about an Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros album. No beauty. No charm. If any confirmation was needed, the rasp in the voice of lead singer, Alex Ebert aka Edward Sharpe, is evidence enough. But precisely because a Magnetic Zeros album lacks any chamber-pop delight, it needs to make up for it in energy, life, and general rambunctiousness. This is exactly what made their first album, Up From Below, such a great listen. It’s also what made the second album, Here, such a disappointment. It was far too thoughtful. Too serious. The new album goes back to basics. It’s not that there aren’t some chin-stroking moments, but the central themes are love, peace, and freedom. Dude. And, more importantly, they’re communicated with an excitement, a verve, and a sing-along quality. There are about 11 or 12 members of ESANTMZ, depending on who’s come round for dinner. And the sheer numbers are an essential part of the fun. They give it a raggedy, DIY quality. They also perhaps explain why the album sounds like it was recorded in a barn, presumably because it was the only space big enough to fit everybody in. The danger in having such a large troupe is the temptation for everyone to feel they have to be doing something all the time. It can make things sound crowded, confused, cacophonous. Here, though, Edward Sharpe is in control. Where necessary, he seems to have the wherewithal and the authority to tell member no. 9 to put down the goddamn maracas and just keep quiet for a while. An Edward Sharpe album is unlikely ever to be a classic. And there are some missteps here. ‘In The Lion’ is truly atrocious. ‘In The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ more like. But there are some great, life-affirming moments too. ‘Better Days’ is the 2013 S-T equivalent of ‘Home’. ‘Let’s Get High’ (on love, if you please) is as much fun as it sounds. And even the closer, ‘This Life’, with its darker, bluesier themes isn’t a total downer, man. Long Live Edward Sharpe and every single one of his Magnetic Zeros.