Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Saturday, 24 August 2013

It is really hard to create music which evokes a previous era without sounding imitative, but Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros pull it off. Listening to their self-titled third album puts you in a time warp back to the late Sixties. Yet only a couple of the songs sound specifically like anything recorded then. It's more a question of attitude – of feel.

Lyrics like "Love, love is the mother/ God, god is the human/ You, the generator/ Please!/ Please!/ Peace, peace is the giving/ A piece for everybody/ Please" encapsulate the hippie spirit. There is a certain hopeful naivete to this, but one that, in light of today's predominant cynicism, is downright endearing. And one which was a key part of that era, the idea that we could change the world and we could do it through music. Even a song like "Life is Hard" hides a positive message: "Come celebrate/ Life is hard/ Come celebrate/ Life is Hard/ All life is all we are."

The other aspect of the Sixties the band carries is how much the Zeros are a collective rather than just a band. There is an impressive list of musicians and vocalists on this album, and even more who have participated in previous recordings and/or tours. At times it almost feels like this is one of those albums which various communes released in the late Sixties and early Seventies (such as The Source, among others). At the very least, it is reminiscent of the original Jefferson Starship (not the cheap pop band which later appropriated the name), as represented on Blows Against the Empire, which was a collection of all Jefferson Airplane's musical friends, including Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Graham Nash. Like that album, you can feel how the individual musicians contributed to the overall whole, how room was made for each talent.

If there is a specific musical reference point for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, it might be the white soul of the Young Rascals. Much of the sound here is that of pre-hip-hop R&B (which was a very different creature from today's R&B). Other musical hints also pop up. "Two" sounds like it could be a Mamas and Papas outtake. "This Life," the closing tune, is a straight blues song. "They Were Wrong" breaks the hippie vibe, sounds almost goth. There are hints of gospel, folk and straight ahead rock. If anything is missing, perhaps surprisingly for a band with a song titled "Let's Get High," it's psychedelia, at least of the hardcore electric variety.

Even with all the nods to the music of previous generations, there is something very modern sounding about the album as well. It may be the very eclecticism of the music. As was the case in the late Sixties, the climate in music has broken wide open and is very open to new ideas and experimentation; as was the case back then, musicians have begun to pull from a wide variety of styles and genres and put it all together into something uniquely their own. That's exactly what Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros do here on this album, and the results are excellent.



Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros' self-titled album is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

Comments are closed.