freeenergycroc1.jpg
Julia Mullen Gordon
Free Energy

The Crocodile

Tuesday, Jan. 25

Review by Julia Mullen Gordon

Sometimes, if you listen to too much Radiohead or Dirty

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Free Energy Blurs the Line Between Respectful Parody and Tired Nostalgia at Last Night's Pickle Party at the Croc

freeenergycroc1.jpg
Julia Mullen Gordon
Free Energy

The Crocodile

Tuesday, Jan. 25

Review by Julia Mullen Gordon

Sometimes, if you listen to too much Radiohead or Dirty Projectors, it's necessary to seek out a sonic palate-cleanser, a blissfully uncomplicated band that can get you back to neutral. Free Energy is the perfect band to get you there.

They make fun, dumb classic rock that would go unnoticed in the jukebox of any respectable dive. Their lyrics are about being "young" and "alive." In the words of my companion: "They're a goofy buncha bros with an Urban Outfitters meets the Rolling Stones kinda sound." Add in the ringing, twin-guitar tones of Thin Lizzy and you've pretty much covered it.

So, unsurprisingly, when they took the stage at the Crocodile last night, it was party time from the opening notes of "Dream City." Frontman Paul Sprangers shimmied, high-kicked, and tossed his lovely long locks to and fro. Guitarist Scott Wells dutifully shredded on his sunburst Les Paul, churning out the sunny hooks that are the hallmark of the band's 2010 debut, Stuck on Nothing. Jams were kicked; flip sides caught. Everyone was "psyched" and everything was "sweet" and "awesome." And really, it was. But it can be hard to tell if this glorified bar band should be appreciated as a celebration of the genre it pays tribute to, or if they're simply another band trampling yet again over well-worn territory.

On one hand, you can tell from Sprangers's puppy-like enthusiasm that this is a labor of love, akin to artists copying paintings in the Louvre. His efforts paid off when he got a relatively small crowd to sing along convincingly to the infectious "Bang Pop."

But as everything old becomes new again, Free Energy's songs begin to sound like snippets of past hits remixed into a new product, with the end result something like Taco Bell's ground "beef," a truth that could be levied against their colleagues in bands like Best Coast as well. But at some point a purist might prefer to hear Big Star's "September Gurls" to filler songs like Free Energy's "Dark Trance." And one might wonder about the possibility for growth when three "new" songs sound just like all the old ones.

In the end, the latter view is far less fun and takes some of the joy out of life. It's hardly worth dwelling upon when one could instead meditate on "cherry lips and long hair/With a pair of sunset eyes."

Reporter's Notebook:

The crowd: In the spirit of the show, let's lift a phrase from Hipster Runoff--"alternative bros," i.e, young, Pitchfork-reading but perhaps fraternity-belonging guys.

Random notebook dump: A lady in the front row with knee-length hair could have beat any member of the band in a headbanging contest.

The night's slang: A "pickle party" is a more polite way of saying "sausage fest." Hey, the more you know.

 
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