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Posted on April 7th, 2010 (2:04 pm) by Crawford Philleo

Stuck On Nothing is the kind of debut record from a band I hate to love and love to hate. There’s hardly a single strand of original thread making up this band’s muscle shirt—they steal from just about all your favorites through the past decades, even the ones you may not enjoy admitting to. From classic rock titans like the Stooges, T-Rex, or Boston (yes, Boston... especially the guitar solos), all the way to 90‘s alt-rock bands like Weezer and Pavement, Free Energy’s style of muscle-laden guitars, moderate tempos and punchy melodic hooks is one we’re all familiar with. It’s tried and true. It’s fun as fuck, man. But if it really is 2010, and this is going to be the crop of “up and comers” we’re to be dealt for the years to come in rock and roll’s future, you’ve got to be kidding me.

Free Energy are a new band out of Philadelphia, and one with the luckiest luck in the entire free world, getting miraculously placed on the distinguished DFA record label, and having its debut album gorgeously produced and released by the one and only James Murphy. Or—and this is the one I’m having trouble with—Free Energy is just a truly kick ass band. Why is it so hard for me to admit one, and recoil with defeat on the other? Does the good outweigh the bad, or is this one just not even worth your time?

For one, and I’ll get this over quick, it’s a bit disheartening and totally annoying that you can hum “Louie Louie” over several of the album’s tracks (especially “Bang Pop”—a clear exercise in simpleton, numskull high-fivery). It’s also a bummer that both “Dream City” and “All I Know” are extremely close to being utter ripoffs of T. Rex classics—see the latter group’s “Mambo Sun” in particular. “Dark Trance,” has a melody I swear Rivers Cuomo owns the copyright on... the list just goes on and on.

But the band gets some bonus points for sounding amazing, which is likely due primarily to the production work of James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. Guitars are not only appropriately shredded track to track, dueling and solo alike, but they’re also mixed and processed wonderfully in brilliant hi-fidelity stereo. Everything is thick, full, and crisp. “Bang Pop” makes use of subtle effects like slap-back that make the guitars pop like neon colors. Some clever arrangements of strings, horns, and auxiliary percussion save a track like “All I Know,” keeping some of the less-than-original compositions at least mildly interesting. And I have to give some love for the panning drum fills on “Bad Stuff”—just cheesy enough to raise a smile.

Additionally—and this is the key to Free Energy—there are the lyrics to buoy this one up a bit. Ultimately, there’s nothing terribly evil going on with Free Energy—at least nothing as insidious as a band like Jet. At first, it seems like these guys are performing a similar function, writing pop tunes about getting wasted and chasing tail. But upon repeated listens, there seems to be an underlying optimism that finds its way into these tracks’ subconscious. And it’s a feeling that uplifts, excites, and inspires, rather than just give the listener a boner. “If you wanna get high, just open your eyes” is the kind of line that reminds us it’s not simply enough to be alive, but rather, it becomes endlessly important in this soul-sucking media overload of culture to recognize that we’re alive and remember why that is important. This album is about seizing life moment by moment through a refusal to sit still. It is about abandoning authority, and championing inhibitions of all else. It’s wind in your hair, foam in your glass, and a summer’s worth of freedom.

You’re supposed to love this one. And don’t get me wrong—Free Energy is a band that is very easy to fall in love with. These guys love to drink. They love to party. They love girls. So does... everyone, right? Ok, maybe not—but at least they represent fun stuff— good times, good friends, and rock ‘n’ roll! Stuck On Nothing is like a great high school kegger. Just don’t come crawling back to me complaining when you’re nursing that hangover tomorrow. Hindsight really is 20/20. What’s infuriating is that Free Energy knows this, and it’s not holding them back. They’re the slacker in my high school chemistry class who skipped, got high, copied off of his neighbor and still got good grades anyway. Don’tcha just hate that?

Track List:
1. Free Energy
2. Dream City
3. Bang Pop
4. All I Know
5. Bad Stuff
6. Dark Trance
7. Young Hearts
8. Light Love
9. Hope Child
10. Wild Winds

Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

69 / 100
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