Correction: A previous version of this review referred to the song “I Don’t Wanna Pray” as ”I Don’t Wanna.” This version has been corrected.
Alex Ebert, leader of the Los Angeles-based collective Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, recently told an interviewer that he had no interest in the Zeros being the equivalent of “the ’60s ride at Disneyland,” which is, after a fashion, exactly what they are: a genial facsimile of a Manson-era hippie jam band, complete with multi-culti sing-alongs and hygienically suspect old-timey beards.
Edward Sharpe (who doesn’t exist) and the Magnetic Zeros (of whom there are 11 — yes, 11) have all the Americana authenticity of Colonial reenactors in Historic Williamsburg, but you don’t have to believe their sophomore full-length album, the often great, vaguely false “Here,” to like it. It might not even help.
“Here” starts with “Man on Fire,” a taut grower of a track indebted to Johnny Cash, and piles on the tropes from there. There’s a rollicking Up With People extravaganza (“That’s What’s Up”), a spartan country ballad in the spirit of something from Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble (“Child”), a ramshackle, bang-the-washboard raver (“I Don’t Wanna Pray”) straight outta the ’70s (which is to say, the 1870s).
The rest is mostly a welter of feel-good jams with an indeterminate spirituality baked in. It’s the gleeful interplay between the band’s members — the seemingly off-the-cuff hoots and hollers, the unearthly harmonies — that make “Here” worthwhile even when it’s creepy, which is often: The lush, gorgeous “Mayla,” which features the soaring and unblemished vocals of what seems like a thousand voices at once, sounds like it was made by the sort of robe-wearing cult members who press pamphlets into travelers’ hands at airports. You might be intrigued, but probably not converted.