Free Energy

Stuck on Nothing

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Free Energy is a quintet from Philadelphia, but they sound like they hail from Rock City, USA. Their debut album, Stuck on Nothing, is textbook rock & roll from the soaring guitar riffs, arena-rocking chants, and numbskull lyrics to the string sections, heavy grooves, and carefree attitude. It’s all done lovingly and with no jokes, crafted to sound like it should have been beaming through a tiny transistor radio in 1975, or pumping through a boom box in 1983. There are nods to Thin Lizzy, T. Rex, and mainstream AOR of the '70s, influences taken from power pop, soft rock, and epic metal, and, most importantly, they're great songs from top to bottom. The lead-off track, "Free Energy," would have been a huge radio hit in the late '70s, the only reason it isn’t in 2010 is because radio has changed (see also the Pooh Sticks in the '90s). The rest of the album would have filled out a block of good-time AOR jams with ease. The only clue that this record came out in 2010 is the lead vocals: Paul Sprangers sings with a laconic ease that wouldn’t have existed before Pavement. His lazy phrasing and slightly pitch-challenged style don’t wreck the illusion, though, they just add a human element in a way that a singer full of chest-hair and bravado could never have done. It certainly does nothing to detract from the uplifting, sunny vibe, nor does it make the tunes any less hooky and fun. This light touch and the innocence the bandmates bring to the album serve them well on the two tracks ("Hope Child" and "Wild Wind"), that end the album on an earnest and uplifting note that would have sounded corny otherwise. Stuck on Nothing isn’t going to change rock & roll history even a little, but for a good time, give the album a listen and you won’t be disappointed.

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