Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros have always seemed most comfortable exploiting their innate eccentricity, a sprawling hippie ensemble whose members seem to come and go, leaving frontman and lead singer Alex Ebert to steer them through one otherwise unwieldy effort after another. Grandiose in both ambition and execution, the Magnetic Zeros’ music is best characterized as a carnivalesque exercise that finds no element too bold or indulgent as far as fitting it into their brew. It’s wildly eclectic and equally eccentric; even the name on the marquee, Edward Sharpe, is an imagined character based on an Ebert short story about a messianic main character. The entire concept is weird to say the least, a remnant of communal culture bound up in a psychedelic swirl.
It’s notable then that the band’s latest effort, Person A, finds the name Edward Sharpe crossed off on the cover, giving credit to the Magnetic Zeros alone. Ebert’s shown no remorse or regret on that subject, telling one interview that since Sharpe was a fictional character to begin with, there’s nothing wrong with simply killing him off. Notably too, despite some initially eerie flourishes, the songs are sweeping in their grandeur — buoyant, exhilarating and and as striking as any full scale symphonic production of equally or greater magnitude. When Ebert sings “”I’m tired of Buddha/So bored with Abraham/I’m tired of Krishna/Feels good to say I am!!” on the sensational and celebratory “Wake Up the Sun,” he’s not only convincing, he’s absolutely compelling as well.The same goes for “Free Stuff,” “Let It Down,” “No Love Like Yours” and practically every other song that occupies this soaring and sumptuous set.
Dramatic to the point of theatricality, Ebert and company have created a work that could be deemed monumental, such is the scope and suggestion instilled in practically every song and every stanza. It almost makes Person A feel like more than an album and closer to an epoch. It also makes the Magnetic Zeros feel a more essential ensemble than ever before.