Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Up From Below


2.5
average

Review

by David James Young USER (181 Reviews)
April 26th, 2010 | 18 replies | 11,627 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: C'mon get happy with some stinking hippies. Or don't.

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

Much like Bowie had to transition to Ziggy Stardust in order to properly express his view and make that transitional quantum leap in his career, so too did Alexander Ebert have to become Edward Sharpe. After fizzling out with passing fad dance-punks Ima Robot, Ebert took himself off to rehab, moved out of his house and broke up with his girlfriend. All the while, he was meticulously creating an entirely new character for himself. He has described Edward Sharpe as a messiah "sent down to Earth to kinda heal and save mankind". Confused? Up From Below, the debut album from Sharpe and his band The Magnetic Zeros, is probably only going to make things worse. Part Plastic Ono Band, part Polyphonic Spree and part Hooray For Everything (Simpsons fans will understand), Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes' undying love for the world around them sure is sweet, but that doesn't stop it from getting overly-similar and annoying at times.

The album begins with a major-chord rock shuffle and the announcement that Ebert (now fully transitioned into Sharpe) has been "sleeping for forty days" on 40 Day Dream - and wouldn't you know it, "this dream is amazing". The track is a vivacious waltz of Instant Karma vocal reverb, warm electric guitar and an all-in "whoah ohh" chorus. It's these elements that gradually result in defining what the Magnetic Zeros are all about - rousing singalongs about nothing in particular with a sickly-sweet sentiment; Sharpe howling up the front of the mix (usually about love) and the rest of them making sure you remember the chorus, whether you were seeking to or not. It's an openly derivative yet sprightly sonic experience, with its stylings cut selectively from early seventies guitar pop, early Motown and even the modern freak folk movement at any given point. At times, it feels as if the entire album is a pastiche of yesteryear's guitar pop; struggling to create something that's as much their own as it is someone else's. When they get it right, however, it's a treat for all involved.

"Janglin'" (pop and rock will forever drop the g from words that finish with it) thrives on soulful melodies and a catchy array of nimble rhythms and squawking horns, as well as a kitschy "ba-ba-da-ba-da" that issues the challenge of not singing along (a heads up: you will fail said challenge). Meanwhile, the slow waltz balladry of "Black Water" shows the slightly more melodramatic side of the band's musical stylings, complete with tinkering piano and swelling strings that gives listeners an idea of what Arcade Fire sound like when they've been on the booze. There is one song found on Up From Below, however, that is conveniently placed right at the record's centre, thus eclipsing everything that both precedes it and follows it - the sweet enchantment that is "Home". It's pretty obvious that Sharpe has a bit of a thing for bandmate Jade Castinos - she even gets her own song, the dull "Jade". On this little trip, however, the two get to sing about just how much they dig each other, and it's one of the depressingly rare instances where absolutely nothing goes wrong. The Johnny-and-June vocal interplay, the adorable whistling and the radiant energy of the song itself is more than enough to secure its position as Ebert's masterpiece.

Unfortunately, this proves to be more of a curse to the album overall than it does a blessing. Not only do none of the other songs come close to it, some tracks notably fall short of the mark. "Carries On" attempts to bottle the same energy of "Home", but it's much more irritating than it is catchy, with mumbled verses and a stupid chorus. "Desert Song", fittingly enough, wanders around aimlessly - every glimmer of an interesting shift in musical dynamics only a mirage. We could continue, but the fact remains that it's hard to get into specifics when everything sounds the same. The arrangements are predominantly weak, often making it sound like only half the band is being regularly used, if at all. It's as if everyone involved wrote a handful of great choruses and then forgot about the rest of the songs - the reverberating production throws a veneer over this, but doesn't help much further. Making matters worse, Sharpe's "life's a garden, dig it" mentality might serve his character well, but it certainly doesn't make for great lyrics: "Sometimes said it's sunshine/Let it sunshine on my mind", he says in-between what could only be puffs of seriously good weed on "Come in Please".

Up From Below takes musical interactivity to a strange level in the fact that your own personal context will seal the fate of the album's quality. If you're up for dancing around in tie-dye clothing with a big stupid smile, then you're going to love this. If you can't bring yourself to such undying optimism, the record will irk you within the first few tracks. This isn't to say that Up From Below is definitely a bad album, but it's not entirely good either. Simply approach with caution.



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Chart.
3.5
great
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burritoman (4)
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Comments:Add a Comment 
lobby
April 26th 2010



1251 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This album = Home

Other tracks are pretty solid...

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
April 27th 2010



23798 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Damn you Atavan, I was just about to get this because my friend says they're the most anticipated band for her at Sasquatch. Now I'm not so sure....

Fudge, I guess I'll have to make up my own mind, once again.

liledman
April 27th 2010



3826 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

yeah basically i kind of listened to the album a bit and thought yeah its alright...

then home came around and was awesome n stuff and the rest of the album started being bleh

AtavanHalen
April 27th 2010



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

^ Pretty much my experience right there.

tombits
April 27th 2010



3469 Comments


My friend showed me some of the songs from this. I said I liked them because I didn't want to offend her, but they sounded kind of bland and yuck.

Kiran
Emeritus
April 27th 2010



6000 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

"40 day dream" was glorious for a while but i dont go back to the rest of this at all

Skimaskcheck
April 27th 2010



2360 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haha, great review man, pos'd

i still think the pros outweigh the cons though

AtavanHalen
April 28th 2010



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Thanks, man.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2010



14986 Comments


home isnt even good

AtavanHalen
May 9th 2010



17927 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Fuck that

lancebramsay
March 30th 2011



1585 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Janglin is good too

conradtao
Emeritus
May 23rd 2011



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"Home" is great, fuck off Alex.

But yeah, the rest of this leaves a sour taste.

lobby
May 23rd 2011



1251 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

home is so good, nice dig conradtao

Activista anti-MTV
August 25th 2011



3138 Comments


I like'd "Home." Probably won't check out this album based on this review. Well written!

skeames1214
July 3rd 2013



2713 Comments


Uh, whatever, i saw these guys live a few days ago and it was fucking awesome.

skeames1214
July 3rd 2013



2713 Comments


Uh, whatever, i saw these guys live a few days ago and it was fucking awesome.

skeames1214
July 3rd 2013



2713 Comments


40 Day Dream is the shit.

skeames1214
January 12th 2014



2713 Comments


Alex Ebert just won a golden globe for a film score he did. ~weird~

first three songs + home rule hard



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