Free Energy - Stuck on Nothing

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  • Shaped from the splinters of local Minneapolis faves Hockey Night, Philadelphia quintet Free Energy put themselves on the summer mixtape map with the free release last spring of lead single, "Dream City." An unabashed bit of cock rock swagger—blustery horns, ragged guitars and a strutty "nah nah nah" chorus—"Dream City" sounded like a kind of reconfigured hair metal track fit now for indie kids, clubbers and classic rock stans: anthemic, streamlined and deftly referential. Or, in terms befitting the track's aims, just kind of, well, fucking awesome. Of course, even without the strength of "Dream City," getting blog tongues waggin' wasn't hard. Free Energy had another point of intrigue, sending demos of the songs of what would become this debut, Stuck on Nothing, to LCD Soundsystem/DFA mastermind James Murphy. Familiar with late-era Hockey Night material, Murphy agreed to produce the album. Considering all of the delays that have plagued the record since, it's hard to ignore the providential feeling that Stuck on Nothing finally arrives in spring thaw of 2010. Full of slick cigarette lighter jams, shout-along hooks, and rounded out by Murphy's pitch-perfect nostalgic production, Stuck on Nothing's warmth and the instantaneity of its charms should convert even the sternest initial "T. Rex clone" dismissals. It's a fond reformation of almost 40 years of hedonistic guitar-pop, the stuff perhaps no longer of Hockey Night ('cause the sport is dead) but of deep and timeless American Friday and Saturday nights. The throaty Thin Lizzy stomp of opener "Free Energy"; the almost Weezeresque power-pop of "Light Love"; the S&E-era Pavement (one of Hockey Night's biggest influences) reverb squeal and paranoia of "Bad Stuff"; the slippery Electric Warrior strings of "All I Know." There are moments you almost recognize, a guitar melody nicked straight from records of legend (name that lick: 3:35 of "All I Know"). But they're reconfigured here not as pastiche nor homage but, simply, as lovingly re-rendered classic rock. Listen to album standout "Bang Pop": those slow spacious drums, that basement dweller guitar, the chorus of gummy "oh-oh-ohs." It's built for basic thrills, '60s sha-ma-la garage rock with a modern urgency. But without Free Energy's shrewd sense of songcraft and Murphy's deft production—you might not hear a better "guitar" record this year unless LCD Soundsystem #3 fits the bill—so much of Stuck on Nothing's revelry would seem just a vapid cashing in on glory-year nostalgia. That Free Energy flirts with staples of our collective pop consciousness and sidesteps these pitfalls is a tribute both to the band and to Murphy. Stuck on Nothing is loose, good time pop that doesn't feel disposable. Open all the windows, and see what's in the fridge. Spring is here.
  • Tracklist
      01. Free Energy 02. Dream City 03. Bang Pop 04. All I Know 05. Bad Stuff 06. Dark Trance 07. Psychic Lightning 08. Light Love 09. Hope Child 10. Wild Wind