Alex Ebert, the mastermind of the Edward Sharpe character, originally intended to release two albums of material in 2012. Here came out that May as planned, but its companion, meant to be playful and lighthearted, was much delayed. The belated second half, Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros, certainly has a carefree feeling—the second line of the record is “We don’t have to talk, let’s dance”—but there’s still no follow-up to “Home” here. Ebert grants Jade Castrinos her fair share of vocal duties while continuing to guide the band away from that conversation song. His commitment to finding something other than an album-length riff on the band’s one big hit is admirable, but the results of his constant costume-changing through myriad styles hasn’t yielded anything as memorable as that distillation of flowery ’60s nostalgia.
“Let’s Get High” is a train-wreck of bongo-circle optimism gone wrong—it plays like a misguided version of the “Aquarius”/”Let The Sunshine In” coda to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, with lines like “Ain’t we all just Japanese when we’re high (on love)” and “We’re all Jesus in disguise when we’re high (on love).” “Life Is Hard” never rises above rudimentary recognition that sometimes you can feel “crushed just like a bug,” preaching togetherness and unity like a hippie dog whistle. But beyond that borderline-racist hacky-sack philosophizing—it might be a joke, but it isn’t funny—and wide-armed sympathetic hug in musical form, hardly anything registers as more than a blip, with the vast majority of the songs being not so much boring as immediately forgetful.
The groovy, danceable tracks like “In The Lion” are inoffensive, and the group-vocal gospel influences on “Please!” make for the most gorgeously constructed moment on the album. But even when Castrinos gets her featured moments—on the duet “Two” and the soul-crooner “Remember To Remember” late in the album—it’s not substantive enough to make an impression.
Edward Sharpe is the born-again hippie alter ego of Alex Ebert, formerly the frontman of Ima Robot, and he never flinches from playing that character as a kaleidoscopic cult leader. And from how gleeful the group sounds, this isn’t some three-album commentary, it’s straight-faced commitment to this attitude and to touring the country in a bus that gives off Dr. Teeth And The Electric Mayhem vibes more than it recalls.