Free EnergyStuck on NothingBy Randy LoBasso
We assume Free Energy knew they were onto something big. Why else would the opening lyrics to their first full-length Stuck on Nothing be "We're breaking out this time/Making out with the wind/And I'm so disconnected/I'm never gonna check back in/We're gonna start a new life, see how it goes"?
Because since being featured on Origivation's cover last winter as part of our "Philly Issue", the band has, if you will, broken out and, rising from the urban sprawl of Fishtown, we can also assume that new life has begun.
In March, the fivesome was featured in Rolling Stone as part of their "Best New Bands of 2010" spread. That mag said the group "mine the best of glammy Seventies-style arena jams" while applauding producer James Murphy's (LCD Soundsystem) production skills. (Yeah, we realize that was a few months ago, but we've yet to take a crack at the album and there's no time like the present.) They're currently touring the states (many of them), a journey that'll feature spots at both the XPonential Music Festival on July 16 and Pitchfork in Chicago on the 17th.
But that's all skindeep praise. What it really comes down to is, is this hype or are they actually good? We've gotta go with the latter. In fact, they rock. And after checking them out at an XPN noon show a month back, we can assure you they're living up to it all.
Summoning bands like Thin Lizzy and the Cars, Free Energy has that "let's drive really fast through the desert or some shit" sound. It can be fast, it can be slow, it's got that epic guitar noise-rock sound to it and Stuck on Nothing is the sort of album that let's you dodge the Skip button and bob your head to the same timed beat for 44 minutes.
All in all, Free Energy don't make a lot of promises on their first album. And we get the feeling they're tired – as we're getting – of reverby laptop experiments in neon electro- indie dance rock. Instead they bring you back to a time when the hordes of bands came from their parents' suburban garages, songs birthed form 25-watt Epiphone amps bought second-hand.
They're breaking out this time because what they're doing has been so forgotten. Could it be that no one thought they could compete with the White Stripes' brand of Garage Rock after Jack and Meg came on the scene, so they scampered in the opposite direction? Free Energy may be the first band to come along (and, hopefully, stick around) since then who've stripped themselves down to that skeletal basement rock that's been missing from our collections for too long.
They're keeping it simple and they're doing it well. As tough as it is to give Origivation's highest mark to a group that's only got a single album, we can only look at Free Energy's work singly and objectively. Therefore, it comes with our highest recommendation. Stuck on Nothing is nothing if not iconic.