At first glance, Alex Ebert, the lead singer and founder of the sprawling '70s-inspired 10-piece indie-rock band Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros simply looks like a homeless hipster Jesus. It's perhaps an unlikely intersect, but when it's revealed that the former frontman from Ima Robot conceived of the Sharpe persona as a musical messiah meant to spread the word of love ... well, just take a listen to the songs on the band's first album, Up From Below. Every aspect of Ebert's vision crystallizes beautifully, as if by design from a maybe-mad prophet-genius.
Ebert's mythology makes a compelling argument for arriving on the safer side of insanity. It's widely documented that after receiving treatment for addiction, Ebert realized women were his main distraction from making music. Nonetheless, he hooked up with singer Jade Castrinos, who joined the band and whose voice can often be heard through Below.
Sharpe and the band have made a strong case for spreading euphoric joy around the world with their music. Judging by their ever-widening fan base, it won't be too hard. Their sound is undeniably catchy, with every melody like peanut butter is as sticky to the roof of your mouth. And every tune is surprisingly sophisticated for a sprawling jam band.
Spanning just 13 tracks, Below's an assortment of feel-good, jangly '70s rock, buoyed by a swell of voices, instruments, and genuinely pleasing vibes. A YouTube video shows the group rocking out on "40 Day Dream," hand-clapping and foot-stomping taking the place of conventional percussion instruments.
Ebert's a goofy, gangly lead singer, but his enthusiasm sweeps the band into a blissed-out frenzy, and damnit if the mood isn't contagious. And it doesn't stop there. The album's opener, "Home," actually begins with whistling, which is charming and never cloying. That might very well demonstrate that Ebert really does possess the magic of a divine messenger.