Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes have a lot going for them in the annoying department. They look like a hipster version of hippie Village People, with one member filling out the bingo card by donning a serape for the photo shoot. There’s also a bunch of them, which would indicate they might be stepping on the toes of the Polyphonic Spree. But looks can be deceiving, as the old maxim goes, and in this case it holds true. Those who would write off Sharpe and his band of merry pranksters as ironic music dabblers would be missing a genuinely pleasurable listening experience.
Up From Below, the band’s debut album, is actually the antithesis of its sloppy appearance. Instead of loose jams with twenty-minute conga solos, the longest song clocks in at just over six minutes, with most listing more toward tight, three-minute pop numbers. The band does a lot within the boundaries of this unexpected economy, creating sonically lush combinations of instruments that never seem showy or forced. The songs blend in to one another naturally, and the players, utilizing two keyboards, an accordion, and a plethora of percussion instruments, all seem to be buying in to the idea that less is sometimes more when it comes to recording.
With all there is to like on Up From Below, there are a few moments that seem to betray a suppressed tendency toward sloppiness. A couple of percussion solos drag on a bit, and it is hard to construct much of a point from Sharpe’s lyrics. Points of criticism, however, seem unkind when placed beside all the things that the band did right. Up From Below is an album to be commended, even if it might lead to the scourge of other hippie hipsters appearing in buses across the nation.