The UnLive | Albums: Stuck on Nothing by Free Energy
Posted on April 26, 2010 by Greg
Stuck on Nothing by Free Energy
First, a little background for those unfamiliar with this relatively new group: Free Energy is a Philadelphia band containing three transplanted Minnesotans (brothers Scott and Evan Wells and frontman Paul Sprangers) and two Philly guys (Geoff Bucknam and Nick Shuminsky.) They formed after the demise of the MN guys’ first band, Hockey Night, and got signed to the hip NY dance label, DFA. DFA placed them with producer James Murphy (you know, that LCD Soundsystem guy), and he crafted their sound into the eventual debut album, Stuck on Nothing.
Stuck on Nothing is one of the catchiest albums I have heard in years, matched with one of the worst-ever album covers (a Chuck Taylor-type shoe with a rainbow patch on it and a big blob of gum stretching from the sole to the sidewalk with terrible goofy pink lettering on top.) When you look at the album art, you expect neo-hippie music from a bunch of half-assed 15 year-olds with access to Photoshop.
Then you listen to the record, and it sounds like a greatest hits album from a 70s powerpop band you never got a chance to hear the first time around. Hit after hit after hit unspools and by the time you wonder when it’s going to serve up a dud, the thing is over and you just put it on again. This is prime AOR stuff that would have burned up the old AM radio charts in the 70s: think BTO, Tom Petty, Journey, Thin Lizzy, some glam attitude, hand claps, na na na na na choruses, cowbell, giant chunky guitar riffs and a mix that demands to be played loud.
If all of this sounds completely terrible to you, indie rock aficionado, I can understand that. I burned out on “classic rock” years ago. But I mainly got sick of hearing the same songs over and over, not the sound of big guitars and massively catchy choruses. Free Energy is not out to reinvent or implode rock ‘n’ roll or wow you with its studio orchestrations. It’s a meat-and potatoes band that wants you to pump your fist and move around on the dance floor and maybe embarrass yourself with a little air guitar. And on this front it succeeds wildly.
I have a hard time imagining this record failing to work its big shaggy charm on you. Almost every one of the ten songs has the potential to get jammed in your head for days. Actually, the album title is almost as bad as the artwork: it should be called Stuck on Everything.
8.5 of 10
–Greg at The UnCool
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