I’ve never heard of Free Energy. I was perusing through the AOL and Spinner listening party websites when I saw the album cover and thought to myself, “Let’s see what sticky gum-shoe sounds like!” To my surprise, this band is pretty good! Produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, Stuck on Nothing is a great all-around record with aspects of pop, metal and British rock, but it’s not too overwhelming. This is good, since I’m not a huge fan of that British rock sound.
“Free Energy” starts off the record really bouncy and paves the way for an uplifting album. There are everything from acoustic guitars to electric solos; from claps to cowbells. The bass-line and finger-tapping guitars display all the influences that this band is bringing to the table with their debut. Though the song is very guitar-driven, it gets you moving and wanting to bust out your best air guitar.
Another highlight off of Stuck on Nothing is “Bang Pop.” Though the track opens with a deep and quick bass line with a whiny guitar solo, the song actually has a slower tempo to it. Although this is the case, the track is not short on energy! The little ska guitar groove compliments the lead singer’s voice very well. Though the guitar solos aren’t incredibly spectacular, the timing is great and adds that extra OOMPH! to these tracks! Not to mention the bridge stripped down to the band’s voices, a couple of claps and a giant drum beat really gets you pumped up before the song ends.
“Bad Stuff” takes a kind of detour from the rest of the album in that it has a very raw sound to it. It reminds you of a punk band’s first EP they recorded onto a 4-track tape deck in the walk-in closet of the drummer’s mom’s bedroom. This doesn’t take away from the song, though. The buzzing guitars have that charm that comes along with the rawness. We get to focus on lead singer Paul Spranger’s voice, but I have to say the highlight is the intertwining guitars that come in all over the place and overwhelm you. One of them even sounds like a viola! The song almost comes to a complete stop in the bridge when it slows down considerably, but it’s still a great listen.
Though Stuck on Nothing is a great upbeat dance album, it’s not short on mellow tracks that get you moving as well. “Light Love” is the perfect example of that, and you’ll know it instantaneously when you hear that keyboard that may remind you of the opening of “Lean on Me.” Once again, we hear Spranger’s voice highlighted. His deep and eerily normal voice is surprisingly soothing, even though there seems to be nothing special about it. “Light Love” turns out to be a stronger track musically than you think, though, because the track picks up. The high-pitched echoing guitar melody and harmonizing vocals add on to the light effects and washboard beat to make this a very full track.
Stuck on Nothing is definitely an album that came out of nowhere for me. I wasn’t expecting to like it this much but this Philadelphia quintet certainly put out a great and ambitious album with the help of James Murphy. I hope they can follow up with the same gusto they put forth in this effort!
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