Free Energy- “Stuck on Nothing” and a slew of upcoming Awesomeness

March 12, 2010

It’s easy to make fun of anything  related to cheese rocker Meat Loaf, but he had a lyric in his “comeback” hit of the nineties, “I would do anything for love,” in which he sang, “some days I pray for silence, and some days I pray for soul. Some days I just pray to the God of sex, and drums, and rock and roll” (of course, I always thought he said “drugs,” but every lyric printed that I find says “drums”–go figure). Ah, Meat Loaf.

I’m segueing from that into reviewing the excellent new album by Free Energy, “Stuck on Nothing,” which sounds absolutely nothing like Meat Loaf. But what Meat Loaf bluntly and adequately termed in the above-mentioned lyric is encapsulated in sound throughout “Stuck on Nothing.” Free Energy channels Cheap Trick, Thin Lizzy, and Tom Petty the way that Gaslight Anthem channeled Bruce Springsteen and The Replacements with “The ’59 Sound.” That is to say, they nod to their glorious and unbridled rock and roll past with obvious homages to and inspirations from it in crafting unique, original and wholly their own great rock music. I was playing the album in my car last night, and friends of mine thought it was Weezer–so I guess sonically, there are some similarities there as well,though I didn’t hear it myself at first. The riff on “Bang Pop” is very Weezer-like upon  further reflections, but where Weezer seemed like some  amalgamation of ’50s mainstream and  ’80s alternative, Free Energy is undeniably ’70s with their lyrics, chords, and choruses. Free Energy, like a lot of the most fun, great rock and roll, seem to invoke an eternal Friday night where we’re all 18, cruising around with friends, in search of a great party. Like a reviewer for Rolling Stone mentioned, the guys in the band have probably watched “Dazed and Confused” more than a few times.

So, it’s been a really great year for music already and IT’S ONLY MARCH. We got excellent new work from Vampire Weekend, Spoon, The Watson Twins, The Ravenna Colt (the new band by ex-My Morning Jacket guitarist, and on par with MMJ), Joanna Newsom, a great mixtape from soon-to-be-superstar J Cole (the warm up, officially posted the last day of ’09), a new single from Lupe, a mixtape from Talib Kweli and DJ Hi Tek, a single from Lil Wayne that contained Eminem’s best verse in 8 years or so, the return of blues-jazz–hip hop prototype Gil Scott Heron, and the last “American Recordings” installment from Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin. Looking at the releases slated to appear March through June astounded me, it’s as if 90 percent of all great working pop musicians are throwing new stuff out over the next couple of months: Erykah Badu and Ghost,Meth,and Rae release work this month as do the Drive By Truckers (The Big to Do!). In April, Talib Kweli and DJ Hi Tek drop “Revolutions Per Minute.” In May, there are new albums by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Hold Steady, Courtyard Hounds (The Dixie Chicks w/o Natalie Maines), The New Pornographers, and The National. In June, The Gaslight Anthem (who claimed to have used The Clash and a slew of other classic Brit rock as the road map this time around) and Against Me! release new work. Lupe Fiasco’s “Lazers” is finally due out this summer as well…and the list will grow, I’m sure.

Awhile back, on a discussion board aimed at saving a local indie record shop (which seems to have worked in some fashion), someone posted that “record companies need to focus on releasing material worth buying, that’s the main problem.” Often there are folks like that, envisioning a golden past in which all new releases were glorious in contrast with a vast emptiness in the current market. It’s true that in the ’60s there were more mainstream classical works, albums that appealed to both the music press and the casual fan, and that appeared on the radio to boot. A decade in which The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and so on, all produced lasting, classic, artistic music is hard to beat. Yet every decade has had it’s fair share of garbage and diamonds as well, and today is no different. There are more quality albums of rock, hip hop, jazz, blues, electronic, country and R&B than most of us could hope to afford being released each year–you just have to look for it. The radio won’t force feed it to you, and sometimes it’s certainly not mainstream. This year there’s more than enough opportunity to tune in to great music, so do so–because music matters.

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