Vinyl giveaway details at the end of the review.
Stuck On Nothing
DFA / Astralwerks
out May 4th*
Rate Free Energy's Stuck On Nothing
Philadelphia foursome Free Energy’s much-hyped debut album, Stuck on Nothing, is what you would put on in your car if you were escaping from somewhere boring. It’s driving, cathartic, danceable, youthful, the kind of record you would put on a couple miles down a monotonous highway to wake you up, spur you to roll down the top, get you doing an awkward dance in your seat. This seems like Free Energy’s whole M.O. – let’s do something to feel good. Let’s do something to be happy. Let’s do something to get away. “We’re breaking out this time,” Paul Sprangers croons in the album’s first five seconds. “We’re gonna start a new life.” With hooks this irresistible, bright power-pop instrumentals, and an overwhelming sense of positivity, it’s impossible not to believe him.
Free Energy’s melodic chops are best suited to the upbeat power-pop jams they serve up in the record’s first half – the Guitar Hero wailing of “Free Energy,” the “Boys are Back in Town”-esque chord progressions and incongruous saxophone licks on “Dream City,” and, best of all, the infectious big drum beats and syncopated vocal on album standout “Bang Pop,” which has all the pop sensibility to qualify it for daily rotation on Z100. Some of the slower tunes, like “All I Know” and the joyous explosion of album closer “Wild Wind,” manage to hold their own weight, helped along by the band’s masterful waily guitars and loud drums. Sprangers’ voice is warm, calm, and something about it is identifiable – or maybe it’s just his lyrics, which are always sweet, heartfelt affirmations: “You’re not alone!” The electric, infectious positivity conveyed through both music and lyrics is Free Energy’s greatest strength.
But, perhaps Free Energy’s greatest downfall is how well they know their strengths. Those waily guitars and loud drums and prominent vocals sound good – they sound really fucking good. Those first three tracks are awesome. All you want to do ever is roll all the windows in the car in the springtime and drive around on the back roads yelling all the words to “Bang Pop” – “I was super messed up like it would never end!” Can you get down with that? I can get down with that. Shit, that’s all I want to do ever from now on!
The thing is, Free Energy’s (admittedly very successful) formula works wonders for the album’s first half, and after that it’s easy to think “Hmm, this is alright, but can we do something that doesn’t start with some Boston-style power chordage?” Not to say that the second half of the album is weaker – “Hope Child” is a straight-up jam, as is “Light Love.” Free Energy are, unquestionably, a talented band, who have masterfully put together an album that that sounds great and plays to their strengths – but I know they are capable of more variation, more risks, and more depth.
To enter to win a copy of Free Energy's Stuck On Nothing on LP (or CD, if you'd like), all you have to is leave a comment and retweet this review. Have you heard the album? If so, rate the album (above) and leave a comment with your thoughts on this review and the album in general. If you haven’t heard the album, comment about your expectations, or listen to it in its entirety at on the Lala player above. Make sure to leave a valid email address in the comment field. Entries will be accepted until May 4th.
* Stuck On Nothing is already out on iTunes. It will be released physically, May 4th.