Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
by Amanda Hoover (Journalism), published August 5th 2013
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
Alex Ebert has never been your typical front man – but then again, he’s not fronting your typical band. As a ten-piece indie-folk group, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have been able to pull off a surreal, full band sound that mixes 1960s nostalgia and gospel roots to create music unmatched by other popular artists today. Ebert leads his flower children followers by donning the Edward Sharpe persona – a Christ figure who starred in a novel Ebert wrote after battling a nearly fatal drug addiction. Plenty of musicians have let fame get to their heads and come to regard themselves as larger than life beings, but Ebert’s alter ego remains down to earth, taking his ten original disciples and growing audiences on a journey for serenity and simplicity.
While the band’s third album, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, maintains the folk and gospel roots that evoke a culture of free love, the new tracks are distinctly evolved from their first two records. They’re full of liberated, raw enthusiasm and an upbeat, whimsical view of the world today. The album opens with the first single, “Better Days,” in which Ebert leads the group through a tune that embodies their trademark mentality – a push for harmony and tranquility. “Try to remember/ that you can forget/ We might still know sorrow/ but we got better days,” Ebert sings as the band echoes him and adds gospel-influenced harmonies to the track that foreshadow themes found on the rest of the album.
Listeners won’t find any standout hits like “Home,” which made the Zeros a household name, among this new collection of songs. The album doesn’t have definitive high or low points, but instead flows seamlessly from one song to another in a way that exemplifies the togetherness for which the band is known.
“Let’s Get High” opens with Ebert shouting “Let’s get high!” followed by the rest of the group singing “High on love!” Here the Zeros dare to make political statements about divisive issues in the United States – terrorism, racism and economic class – and advocate for forming comradery. “Bounce with the bigots in the North/ Got me rocking back and forth/ And the bigots in the South/ Don’t you know it make no difference to me/Ain’t we all just Japanese when we’re high on love?” Ebert sings against an upbeat backdrop complete with trumpets and tight rhythms.
The Zeros take their trademark optimism to a new level on “Life is Hard.” Here, Ebert gets some help from fellow bandmate Jade Castrinos – the lovely lady who helped make “Home” a hit. The two of them come together again to praise and celebrate hardships in life, finding beauty in unexpected places. The chemistry between Castrinos and Ebert that has played a major role in the group’s dynamic since the opening lines of “Home” remains just as tangible and vibrant here.
The album draws to a close with “This Life,” one of the longest songs to date in the Zeros’ arsenal. In this melancholy number, Ebert fully assumes the band’s namesake messiah character. This is the otherworldly, wise and generous Edward Sharpe Ebert has tried to embody on each of the band’s albums, but he’s never pulled it off quite like he does here. The track opens with Ebert feebly singing, “I’ve been trying to pretend/ That death is my friend/ Oh, this life/ Yes, this life ain’t for me now.” Maybe Ebert has always been an outsider, estranged from the norm, but he’s found his place as the leader of this ten-piece ensemble. When the chorus strikes, he leads the group in a call and response style, picking up followers and leading the entire number. The tone changes from desperate to content as Ebert seems to have a revelation: “I woke up feeling new/ ‘Cause now I know this life is for you.” He’s not singing for his own salvation – he’s singing for the rest of the band and anyone else willing to listen. Edward Sharpe may have pulled Ebert out of the dark and saved his life, but this project isn’t about just him anymore. The music’s more than just one man’s coping mechanism – he’s given the songs to everyone.
“Better Days,” “This Life,” “Let’s Get High,” “In the Lion”