Listening to Free Energy, a rock band out of Pennsylvania is like taking an epic trip through classic rock history. Inspiration throughout the record can be identified with some of the most popular songs played on the radio in the past 30 years. Enthusiastic images of youth and eternal summer bring an optimism to power-pop. One might even assume this quintet got their start playing cover songs out of their parent’s garage. Yet they started in Minnesota when front man Paul Sprangers and band mates Scott and Evan Wells played together in an indie band called Hockey Night. In 2008 the three moved to Philadelphia and completed their group with Geoff Bucknam on guitar and Nick Shuminsky on drums.
The bands transformation could not be complete without the help of James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.
After years of sending out their demos, Murphy finally agreed to produce the group on his dance-rock label DFA. Out of the shaky indie sound of Hockey Night emerged a well-polished recreation of 70s rock. Free Energy’s debut album Stuck on Nothing was released May 4, 2010. Unapologetic hooks and incessant power chords may be an anomaly for a label known for modernizing electric music. However, no matter how referential their aesthetic may be, the confidence in delivery and lack of self-consciousness is disarming. Murphy’s production is seamless and crisp without sounding over-produced. Where the album lacks in cleverness it makes up for in honoring the original heroes whose ideas they reconstructed.
Released last spring, their debut single “Dream City” caught some attention as a sing-a-long party anthem. It may be the best song on the album because it sounds as if the band was channeling rock legends like Thin Lizzy or Cheap Trick. Taking place on an archetypal teenaged night, the lulling saxophone creates a serenade of innocent love. While the lyrics lack complexity they make up for it in pure fun, And we’re riding through the night/Trying to get around/In love with the electric sound. The na na nas in the chorus only add to the nostalgia of age-old lyrical technique.
Other songs on the first half of the album such as “Free Energy” and “Bang Pop” have the same vigor and positivity that make you feel good. Hand clapping beats and ringing cowbells keep the mood cheery while the production sounds bright and clean. However the second half of the album gets lost in this power-pop formula and the songs are instantly forgettable. Despite occasional musical embellishments such as the string accompaniment on “All I Know”, there is similarity in the blending of styles. Although songs are swift and solid without sounding chaotic, it becomes tiring to listen to ten highly charged tracks. As the title suggests, Stuck on Nothing my not have a very profound message. It’s a lighthearted album that will put some sunshine in your day if you allow yourself to be absorbed in its sparkling idealism.
Get their album Stuck on Nothing now on and for more information on the band check out on MySpace.