Artist: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Label: Rough Trade Records
When people bemoan that there’s nothing authentic left in art, they’re really just bemoaning art that’s being inspired by itself rather than real life. Art has always been a representation of real life, but now doing artistic things like write, draw, and make music is so prevalent in our society that it’s easy to pick apart things that are just derivatives of other things. Most of us know that the best art is inspired by the human spirit, and the dreams and thoughts within, so when Alex Ebert of Ima Robot came out of rehab and remade himself with a new image in Edward Sharpe, and a new sound with the Magnetic Zeros, it felt authentic. With their second album Here, the façade he created and music starts to wear away, and besides a few songs, we see Edward Sharpe as what he always was: A false god.
You see Alex Ebert says that he created Edward Sharpe as a character that came down from heaven to save us but got distracted and fell in love with girls. Sounds like the cliché of every hippie you’ve ever come across isn’t it? I’ll admit it’s a concept that actually works well as a retro throw back to a day when being anti-establishment in the 60’s really meant something. The music is uplifting odes to spirituality, but where the lines have always been blurred is if this is actually something that compliments organized religion or if it’s something completely opposed. Even now the discussion of what role organized religion has in our society can spark enormous debates, so when Edward Sharpe and his band of hippies venture into church camp fire type songs it makes you wonder where this all is coming from. Alex Ebert came out of a 12-Step program, which if you’re familiar with it, has strong ties to Christianity, so it’s not surprising that even if Ebert doesn’t identify himself as a Christian, he would have a better understanding of the benevolent spirit. The songs on Here feel like the end of an idea that started on the first album Up From Below. There’s nothing subtle about it, he came from somewhere, and now here’s here, but unfortunately in most stories we are actually mostly interested in the journey not the destination.
The album opens up with “Man on Fire” which feels like a triumph of everything Ebert has gone through, and is by far the strongest song on the album. Four songs later “Dear Believer” finds a nice melody that harkens back to the classic 60’s songwriters. The rest of the album dabbles in claps and whistles, and harmony vocals with acoustic guitars that you find common on any beach with a bunch on long hairs drinking wine. After a debut album that got everyone’s attention, they are now reaching beyond their scope and most of the album falls flat. If I saw a bunch of people on the beach around a campfire singing these songs, I may enjoy it in the moment that I’m walking by, because the beach is nice, and the walk is nice, but I’m not going to stop and join them, because it’s not for me. The universe is a far more interesting place than the one they are singing about.
– Michael Unger