Review of Here Album by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros inhabit many worlds, they wear many hats and perform under many guises. This is not simply a reference to the fact that the band has a vast and ranging personnel, but rather to the fact that, musically, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros never quite seem to be of the here and now. One minute, they are exponents of antiquated dust-bowl Americana. The next, you'd be entirely forgiven for suspecting that someone has switched the dial and set the radio to '70s Soft Rock AOR Celebration Hour' (they might want to work on a snappier title for that one).

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros Here Album

The opener 'Man on Fire' sees the male lead of this troupe, Alex Ebert, in full-on Johnny Cash mode; he's riffing on "heartache and pain," as the band hoots and howls behind him. The song transforms into a gentle hoe-down, before an abrupt end, giving way to the country-styled 'That's What's Up.' For the next couple of tracks, the female lead, Jade Castrinos joins Ebert centre stage and the album starts to play out like a musical. There's a sense that each song is a story; the band gel like a well-rehearsed cast, each one singing from the same page of the same hymn sheet as the next.

Having left behind the US country roots of the first few tracks, the band swish through 'Mayla,' a song so heavily indebted to The Beatles that Yoko's probably got the bailiffs on the case as we speak. Talking of debt, the intro of 'Dear Believer' sounds so jarringly similar to Carole King's 'Ferguson Road' that these ears struggle to hear anything other than Carole King's 'Ferguson Road' for the duration of said into. That '70s songwriter vibe carries through 'Child,' giving the sense that the band may be guiding us, chronologically through a history of popular American music, or at least, a history that ends somewhere around 1976 or possibly even the day that 'Rumours' was released.

Whether the energy and drama of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros translates well to recorded form is a matter for debate, though I'd be inclined to err on the side of 'probably not.' Running through the whole of 'Here,' though, is a rustic authenticity. There's a sense that Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros couldn't give a hoot about what's happening outside of those many worlds that they choose to inhabit and flit between, with theatrical leaps and bounds; they're happy trying to convince you that they hail from one of any number of bygone eras. Actors and performers both, their evangelic charm is tough to deny though that charm is probably best conveyed in a live setting than it is 'Here.'

Natalie Kaye

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