Free Energy’s Stuck On Nothing isn’t exactly the type of album one might expect to see imprinted with the DFA Records logo. Nor is it the kind of album you’d likely associate with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, who produced the Philadelphia power-popsters’ 10-track debut. There’s nothing disco about it. No trace of Kraftwerk, New Order or Arthur Russell. Even Chic’s a stretch. Rather, it’s a feelgood rock ‘n’ roll album seemingly transplanted from the mid-’70s, all crunchy power chords, swagger and smiles. It’s the sound of a carefree teenage weekend, driving around with friends and dancing with that girl you’ve been working up the courage to ask out all semester. Stuck On Nothing is, in short, the sound of youth.
Free Energy first gave listeners a taste of their good-natured and big-riffed rock sound last year through a free MP3 of “Dream City,” a T. Rex-style anthem that mixed crunchy riffs with lots of brassy horn arrangements and sweet, sweet melodies. It’s essentially the perfect mix of everything that makes rock ‘n’ roll great, and as such, remains a shining standout here. However, it has plenty of good company. Each of the album’s ten songs is an absolute delight, powerful in sequence, but easy to separate from the pack.
The album kicks off with “Free Energy,” and the group made damn sure that the song they named after themselves was sufficiently amazing. It’s a soaring and hard rocking anthem, with guitar licks blazing and the fists-in-the-air chorus of “This is all we got tonight.” The electric stomp of “Bang Pop” provides an addictively sugary confection, while “All I Know” takes a page from the Book of Bolan, and does a rather impressive reading at that. “Bad Stuff” is a bit too close to “The Boys Are Back In Town” for comfort, but its arrangement is immaculate regardless. “Psychic Lightning,” however, adds some acoustic strum to the group’s Lizzy-esque swagger to satisfying effect, while frontman Paul Sprangers’ pipes recall A.C. Newman far more than Phil Lynott. And “Light Love” is the best song Boston never wrote.
There’s very little about Stuck On Nothing that won’t remind the listener of any number of 1970s powerhouses, from T. Rex to Thin Lizzy to Cheap Trick and Springsteen. But that’s hardly a complaint. Free Energy plays Marshall stacked, feelgood rock ‘n’ roll better than most, and there’s not a bad song in this batch. This generation just found its new soundtrack to sneaking out, guzzling pilsners and cruising chicks.
Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak
The New Pornographers – Mass Romantic
T. Rex – The Slider
MP3: “Dream City”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.