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Brotherly lovers: Free Energy dumbs down and opens up.

Sometimes you don't want to think, you just want to drive around and drink domestic beer from a can and make out, preferably all at once. During these moments, it is imperative to put away the Animal Collective and bust out some shit like Free Energy's Stuck On Nuthin'. Like a sonic summer vacation, this band tackles the Big Themes of being 17 in the suburbs: the rush of total invincibility, the significance of one stupid pivotal moment, the jamming of tongues into mouths against a chain-link fence on the outskirts of the keg party. Maybe it won't stretch your mind, but it'll take you out of it for sure, and that's a real big something.

Free Energy's angle is straight-ahead-Dazed and Confused-style careening '70s guitars, minus the scuzzy druggy reverb-classic rock cut with the occasional synth flourish. Led by the tag team of guitarist Scott Wells and singer Paul Sprangers and produced by DFA's James Murphy (hence the synth), the Philadelphia five piece's debut contains whiffs of Van Halen, Marc Bolan, and, unabashedly, Steve Miller. In the manner of a Waffle House grilled cheese and Vanilla Coke, these songs satisfy basic urges and are instantly, deliciously familiar. "If you're playing a riff or singing, you can hide behind little affectations," says Sprangers. "James was really good about streamlining and making it more direct." Adds Wells, "Our tendency is to pile a lot of stuff on top of a basic song. He was really good about cutting things down."

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Once they got past the clutter and zoomed in on straight brain-dead fun, Free Energy went for it cold. By the end of a recent set at Kung Fu Necktie in Philly's Fishtown, these soft-spoken dudes had the crowd of disaffecteds banging fists in the air. "We referenced Mike Post and Juicyfruit commercials when we were in the studio, in addition to old records. The three of us were excited about going to these dumb places, making big breaks that are really satisfying and, when done in the right context, can be pretty potent," says Sprangers. "We were all egging each other on to go places that maybe didn't seem right or cool. And it was really fun--it was like summer camp." See you at the bonfire, bros.

CAROLINE MCCLOSKEY

myspace.com/freenergymusic

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Author:McCloskey, Caroline
Publication:The Fader
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2009
Words:384
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