The record opens with a subtle but obvious homage to Johnny Cash and “Ring Of Fire”… though one will also hear another John. John Prine’s “All The Best” almost immediately popped into my brain as well. Man I love this song and John Prine… Amazing songwriter.
The tune then seamlessly moves into its own and the rest of “Man On Fire”. I have no idea if the guitar is being strummed all over the place, from the fret board to the face, like Johnny loved to do, but it is a fantastic way to open the band’s sophomore effort.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Here
What I love about this band and this record is how they mash so many styles… Americana, laid back Cali, LAurel Canyon, contemporary gospel, indie, rock, folk/rock… It is all in there, but also all their own. Some may say this is derivative… perhaps… but everyone is influenced by something else… It’s all in how you use it!
I remember flying into Burbank one day and seeing a ton of equipment on the luggage carousel… and got excited to see it all marked with this band’s name. This was before anyone even knew who they were. I never saw any of the band, but it was still pretty cool.
AllMusic says the band was “formed in 2007 by Ima Robot frontman Alex Ebert after a brief period of existential crisis, the cultish 11-piece indie rock outfit Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros draw their inspiration from the communal musical communities that peppered Southern California (specifically Laurel Canyon) with positive vibrations during the ’60s and early ’70s.”
AllMusic is also not a huge fan… at least whoever reviewed this record. Well, they are somewhere in the middle, giving each of the band’s records 3 out of 5 stars. I am not so cynical. Perhaps that is because I am also a fan of Emit Otter…
“The hooky choruses are solid, but there’s a pretty heavy sense of musical theater throughout these highlights, leaving the Magnetic Zeros coming off more like Jesus Christ Superstar meets Emit Otter’s Jug Band Christmasthan the freak folk hoedown they were aiming for.”
The review opens with this… “When Alex Ebert re-emerged in 2009 as messianic musical cult leader Edward Sharpe, many familiar with his previous band, Ima Robot, weren’t buying it. With Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Ebertmade the dramatic 180 from sleazy electroclash-leaning punk singer to grizzly bearded bandleader in an 11-piece down-home freak folk revue, bright psychedelic colors and farmhouse harmonies replacing his not too distant past of black leather and smirky sneers.”
“… The bandmembers wear the whole communal free-living throwback hippie jamboree persona to the point where they dip into goofy character sketches and threaten to detract completely from some pretty catchy songs.”
Perhaps I have not been following the antics or personalities that much… I am just going off the sounds… and from my seat, the sounds are pretty good.
Laurel Canyon has influenced a huge number of artists… the ’60s and ’70s, of course, being the standout period… But what is old is new again and a good number of bands have embraced not only that sound, but the lifestyle as well… Including Dawes, Beachwood Sparks and The Lumineers, who I will chat about on Monday…
Will this album change the world? No. Is it a damn fine listen? Yes, it is… At least to me. I am curious to hear your take.
Folk rock on, baby!