Listen if you like – Three Dog Night, Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club
The latest offering from pseudo-hippie messiah Edward Sharpe and the disciples, the Magnetic Zeros, feels like the end of a great party. People have started moving towards the door because the thing has gone on long enough for us to realize that, sometimes, alcohol doesn’t bring out the best in people.
The second track on the album “Let’s Get High” reminds me of Bluto’s “When the Going Get’s Tough” speech from Animal House; it’s an emotionally sincere attempt to get the group back into the spirit, but do we really want to be? The song is fun, the lyrics are silly, but it’s the musical equivalent of seeing one man with a lampshade on his head telling everybody how great this party is. Most of the songs from the album are a sonic departure from the previous albums, with an introduction of distortion and more prominent drum beats that skip feeling tribal and go immediately to the tired realm of hacky-sack drum circle.
Of course, change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it isn’t change for its own sake. Former Ima Robot frontman, Alex Ebert shrouded himself in the homemade mythology of Edward Sharpe as a means of getting back out into the music world, putting out two albums with his new band who were able to craft a couple song with great hooks and one mega-hit with “Home.” You can’t blame them for trying to go a different route, losing a lot of the layered instruments and gospel feelings that came from songs like “I Don’t Want to Pray” but even that song managed to be upbeat and hopeful, as a counter “Please!” from the current album has a desperation that weaves between the pleading of the lyrics and the dolorous piano playing.
In keeping with their tonal unpredictability the song “Life is Hard” serves as a great sing-a-long, though the lyrics include the listener being told that life is all about being lonely and crushed, but the musical build up to the chorus lets you belt along, “Come celebrate, life is hard” and you don’t celebrate because all of these things you’ve been brought through is building character. We celebrate getting through the obstacles of life, because at the end, we get to stand at the top of the mountain encouraging others that we made it.
No song on the album speaks to the potential of this band better than “Two” which allows the criminally under-utilized Jade Castrinos to have her shining moment. It’s a quick, simple song which Jade rises to heights the rest of the album can only dream about, but her voice doesn’t overshadow Alex’s it brings chemistry out of him, keeping him emotionally honest and believable. “Two voices carry farther than one” the lyric was sung, it’s too bad it wasn’t applied.
The first six songs, as uneven and bloated as they are, are also the most memorable. Most of the songs on the album could stand to have been parsed down on their run time , especially the a fore mentioned “Let’s Get High” which might have thrived as just a silly song, but it was bogged down by a three minute long coda. The second half of the album lends credence to the approach of the first half. Starting with “In the Lion” the band reverts back to the familiar ground of harmony, choruses and duets that isn’t bad, so much as it is forgettable, representing the weakest parts of the previous Edward Sharpe albums. I have to confess my most hopeful moment while listening was when I heard some sparse guitar, whoops of joy and Jade Castrinos’s voice sneaking into an invitation that the singer wants us to come and dance with him. It was then that I flipped back to my mp3 player and realized that the last song of thr album had ended with a whimper and “Man on Fire” from their second album had begun with a bang.
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