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CD: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes: Up From Below

Looking like refugees from the Manson Family and prone to riding around L. A. in a battered school bus, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes are one of those teeming, multi-member outfits that’s more riveting in theory than execution. Imagining how Ima Robot frontman Alex Ebert founded the 11-piece band as a means of celebrating the spirit of the psychedelic 1960’s is fascinating; listening to “Up From Below” not so much.

While the CD’s cover art and accompanying poster put you in mind of the rustic bliss of Laurel Canyon circa 1969, the music is murkier, more Arcade Fire on an acid trip than Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The CD hits something of a sweet spot midway through with three standout tracks in a row. “Jade” is freak folk at its most melodic and polite. “Home” is a strolling country-rock toe-tapper that incorporates a jaunty string section and a chorus of whistlers. The menacing “Desert Song,” which includes a lyric about “dread soaking the sand,” will give you the cold shivers courtesy of eerie, out-there lyrics.

The motley members of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes.

The motley members of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes.

But the rest of the numbers aren’t in the same league. Ebert overestimates the average listener’s tolerance for monotonous, lazy melodies, hand-claps and hippie-style sing-alongs. Still, Ebert and company are too ambitious to write off. They have the look, the energy, and the vibe. Now, all they need are the songs.

Release Date: 7/14/09

Official Site:

[Amy Longsdorf’s entertainment coverage has appeared in “Blender,” “People,” the “Chicago Tribune,” the “Toronto Star,” and “Newsday.” She doesn’t want to imagine a world without Preston Sturges movies, Stax singles, and the music of Bob Marley.]

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