It’s hard to hear about Free Energy and not also hear about all of the different bands that the members seem to be paying homage to. At this point, the “glam-pop” stylings of any group aren’t exactly going to come off as particularly innovative or original, but it’s not as if that’s the point. Citing influences like T. Rex or Thin Lizzy is fairly commonplace, but it’s not in and of itself the source of appeal.
With a band like Philly’s Free Energy, the marks of their influences are admittedly undeniable. However, the endless charm that comes across on their debut album, Stuck on Nothing, has a hell of a lot more to do with their infectious enthusiasm and general depth of talent and less to do with the band’s personal record collection. The genuine classic-rock aesthetic is somehow anchored by the power positive lyrics, not to mention all of the cocksure crooning. It’s a winning mix of confidence and vigor that breeds a surprising authenticity.
Even with DFA label head/LCD Soundsystem moonlighter James Murphy all over Stuck on Nothing’s guitar tracks (as well as behind the boards as producer), there is seldom a hint of irony or cheekiness to what Free Energy is trying to accomplish. It’s hardly a clever album, but it always seems to keep its head in spite of its rather large ambitions. Because, really, this is stadium rock being blasted through crisp tin cans. It simultaneously comes across as out of place and oddly perfect, which makes Stuck on Nothing not only enjoyable but also intriguing.
With a pop-like mindset taking over when the cock-rock aura doesn’t quite match, the members of Free Energy have a sense of themselves that goes well beyond their young years. It all may sound a little too precious, but there is a purity running through Stuck on Nothing that is nearly palpable. Tracks like album opener “Free Energy” and stunning rockers like “Bang Pop” and “Psychic Lightning” pack on the good will in addition to the all of the surprising layers of sonic jolts.
For a debut album oozing with influences, Stuck on Nothing is doubly impressive in the way that it not only makes a definitive mission statement for a truly exciting new band but also manages to keep such a strong sense of itself in spite of itself. Free Energy successfully blend douche-bag rock with an incredibly affable demeanor, and I almost feel guilty for liking it so much. Aren’t these guys just too sweet for rock ‘n’ roll?