Edward Sharpe is a sort of fictional spiritual leader dreamed up by L.A. bandleader-vocalist Alex Ebert. And on his outsize folk-rock band’s big-tent third LP, he’s in full-on love-drunk messiah drag. “I’ve seen better days/Dripping down your face,” begins the LP’s psychedelic sermon, followed by a mission statement: “We don’t have to talk, let’s dance!”
The sound of the 10-piece outfit, with six more players assisting, is huge and more evocatively produced than previous efforts (see the Neil Diamond-meets-Otis Redding orchestral drama of “Life Is Hard”). The choral and brass arrangements are rich, the band’s hands must be calloused from clapping, and the grooves lope and boogie hard. Ebert’s alternately gravelly and whiny soulman exhortations goose things along, while singer Jade Castrinos again proves a crucial partner (see her stirring George Harrison-style spiritual “Remember to Remember”). At their best, they conjure a California-commune Arcade Fire.
But they can also verge on a hippie Hee Haw. Lyrics long on heavy-lidded heh-hehs fall flat, and Ebert’s over-emoting gets wearisome. “I feel the love, I feel the power,” he sings on “In the Lion.” Nothing wrong with that, but as the album proves, good vibes only get you so far.