Song 173: Free Energy, “Free Energy” (2009)

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Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I was still in school. This feeling mostly comes at the end of June, when that itch for freedom starts. When school ends for the summer, the possibilities seem endless, the future seems unending. The whole world is out there for the taking, and September will never come.

I think the desire for that feeling isn’t about wanting to be young again (though I certainly do), or about wanting to be free of responsibility (that would mean not having my wife and daughter, which is unimaginable). No, it’s really about wanting that want, about feeling the pull that comes from warm (but not hot) weather and the days getting longer.

Nobody captures that feeling better than Free Energy, a band that seems devoted to recreating the emotions that come with possibility. Every song of theirs sounds like it’s coming from the radio of a car with the windows rolled down, on a road with few stoplights but plenty of streetlights. It’s the sound of motion in the face of obstacles.  To do this, Free Energy uses the musical vocabulary of other bands that make us think of car radios: T. Rex, Thin Lizzy, Boston, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

It’s not that Free Energy is derivative, or that they’re making references for the sake of making references. No, they’re using the universal language of power chords, cowbells, harmonized guitar solos, and handclaps to remind us that the things we love about summer vacations and road trips are always possible, if not accessible. That aching tug for independence doesn’t have to go unrequited, but sometimes the tug is enough.

Free Energy’s song “Free Energy” (from the album Stuck on Nothing) is a perfect choice for the first track of the band’s debut record, because it’s basically a thesis statement. This song, with its shaggy solos and clockwork rhythm section, is the band at its best. The record was produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, whose touch here is light but identifiable once you’re aware of it. The drums sound like the beats Murphy provides for his main gig: thick but light, strong enough to support the mighty distortion and nimble enough to maintain the momentum.

It’s the sound of June 23.

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