Album Review: Free Energy – Stuck On Nothing

[Astralwerks / DFA; 2010]

Philadelphia rockers Free Energy embody a spirit of Detroit Rock City-esque rock and roll. It’s plain and simple guitar rock with irreplaceable touches that carry this ten-track album along. However, the uniqueness birthed by this simplicity is not what makes Stuck On Nothing a great album; it’s the straightforward, superior songwriting. It’s the little tweaks on Stuck On Nothing that make this album distinctive. The distorted power chords, rousing lyrics, and the occasional guitar solo might not seem too special on paper, but Free Energy have evolved conventional instrumental usage and made it their own. While Stuck On Nothing is raw at its core, it somehow gets away with irregular string arrangements, electric keyboards, and small bits of accompanying horns.

Throughout the entire album, vocalist Paul Sprangers conveys his possession of complete security in what he has written. He transforms almost all of the songs on Stuck On Nothing into modern day rock anthems. For instance, the chorus of “Dream City” sounds like something your dad would be listening to on his way to a Thin Lizzy concert in the 70’s. The offset rhythms and half timed vocal melodies of “Bang Pop” are some examples of those “tweaks” mentioned previously. Midway through the album is “Bad Stuff,” an almost six minute song that refuses to evade excitement and catchiness. “There will come a time when it’s different, but not today,” Sprangers reassures. It’s the continuous masterful pairing of deliverance and lyrics that truly make you want to get out of your seat and sing along. Free Energy incessantly remind us that they’re not your run-of-the-mill local rock band.

With new electronic sounds creating a stir of “genre confusion,” it’s refreshing to hear something that is simple guitar rock. Free Energy play clean, exhilarating, aggressive songs that are not always as fast as you would expect a pure rock record to have. These aren’t ballads, though. Momentum is always present. Stuck On Nothing is a modern interpretation, some might argue reprise, of the superior roots of rock and roll.