Alex Ebert wanders in pleasant circles, very pleasant
circles throughout his solo debut Alexander.
But too much pleasant can be boring, and that’s what ultimately emerges on this
record. In creating this album, the Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros frontman
shows ambition in literally creating every sound on the record–an impressive
feat in its own right. But notable attempts and accomplishments are two
entirely different things. On Alexander,
the Ebert falls pretty far short of capturing the magic that resonates so
brightly through much of his previous work.
It’s not that Alexander is a total trainwreck. That would
imply that there’s a complete crash and burn on this record. Instead, call it
Sharpe-lite. The record’s breezy album opener “Let’s Win” summons a lo-fi folk
aesthetic topped with quirky sonic textures aplenty. “Truth” meanders aimless
lost amidst Ebert’s flowing lyrical attempts towards a serious message of some
convoluted variety. Much of the record’s second half, including “Old Friend” and
“Remember Our Heart,” seems like a handful of barely passable Up From Below
outtakes. Everything is listenable, sure, but it’s tolerable in the same sense
that wallpaper or elevator music can be digested.
Alexander, however, is not a total bore. Ebert conjures up a
little bit of blue-eyed soul on “Bad Bad Love” and “Glimpses,” while “Awake My
Body” stands as a nice jovial, laidback jaunt. The songwriter busts out his
inner-Paul Simon on “In The Twilight.” Granted, there are a handful of
enjoyable moments on this record–but far too few to keep our attention all the
Further, Ebert continues his mystical hippie act on this
record–one that has always seemed contrived at best. The free-spirited vibe
looked like a partial charade on Up From Below, but at this point it doesn’t
even matter. Fans of Ebert will probably jump at that last comment. But however
you feel about his outward appearance and personality, at least Up From Below
had interesting moments sprinkled with bits of transcendence. Alexander,
however, contains none of that allure, instead replacing it with music that
above all is bland, overstretch and boring.
Bad Love,” “Glimpses” MAX BLAU