Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros
Sometimes people just get fed up and decide to shuck their lives and do something different. Often though something serves as a catalyst for change.
Ima Robot frontman Alex Ebert broke up with his girlfriend, moved out of his house and left a 12-step program for drug addiction (heroin). Cut loose, he began writing a novel about a messianic figure named Edward Sharpe who "was sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind...but he kept getting distracted by girls and falling in love." And like the character in his book Ebert got sidetracked.
He met Jade Castrinos in L.A. and put together an ensemble - consisting of ten core members and five additional musicians. Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros played their first show in '07 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood before embarking on a bus tour.
They recorded their debut album, "Up From Below," in Laurel Canyon. Ebert and fellow band members Nico Aglietti and Aaron Older produced the '09 effort that contained "Janglin" which was featured in a television ad for the 2011 Ford Fiesta.
With their sophomore album "Here" available, Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros joined Mumford & Sons for the six-stop Railroad Revival Tour.
Director Emmett Malloy's tour documentary titled Big Easy Express won the Best Long Form Music Video trophy at the '13 Grammy Awards. A few months later, Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros' self-titled third album dropped.
2009 Up From Below
2013 Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros
Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros have been called a hippie collective, an organic band and a feel-good outfit. All those apply. "Up From Below" has an infectious looseness with arrangements that have a "kitchen sink" mentality and a spontaneous zest.
The irresistible "Janglin" actually out-Feists Feist ("1-2-3-4"). "Home," an Ebert and Castrinos duet, is a spaghetti western soundtrack crossed with a Country romp that is played as a Rock song. As odd as that might be the track has a hypnotic pull. Taking a different approach, "40 Day Dream" uses a Blues motif with handclaps to propel an "epic" synth chord progression. The end result sounds like it came out of a Chicago hippie church.
"Up From Below" has more enthusiasm than polish - more twists and turns than market research - all provided for the sheer hell of it.
In the late-60's, when just about every Rock album of note was highly produced, The Band proffered an unpretentious sound matched with heartfelt soul. It radically changed expectations.
"Here" attempts the same ethos. The singing around the campfire vibe permeates but it's the variants that matter. "That's What Counts," an uplifting almost bubbly track, is this set's "Janglin'. "One Love To Another" could have been a '60's anthem while it's easy to visualize an audience, with arms around each other, swaying blissfully to "Fiya Wata."
The campfire embers have burned out (mercifully) and "Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros," simultaneously, hits the road and goes back to church. The choir and handclaps, that sound like thunder, are established trademarks. But here it all gels far more confidently than before.
"Better Days" is a catchy tune and "Let's Get High" is irresistible fun. "Ain't we all just Japanese when we're high" is a line from the latter. There are some duds. "Please" can't really deliver the "war is evil" message and "Life Is Hard" is simply an overwrought ballad. But taken as a whole, this album is a massive step forward.