Review the Reviews: Free Energy

Philly’s spirited, riff-happy arena-rock revivalists comment on stuff written about them.

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted May. 25, 2010

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Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg

Philly’s spirited, riff-happy arena-rock revivalists Free Energy have exploded nationally this year thanks to their recently released debut album, Stuck on Nothing (produced by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem/DFA Records fame), and a well-deserved reputation for a killer live show. We caught up with frontman Paul Sprangers over the phone from the quintet’s tour stop in Leeds, England, for a “Review the Reviews” session, wherein we read excerpts from recent reviews and get the reaction of the reviewed.

“Even on tracks that, on the surface, might seem a bit hokey, Free Energy succeeds with loose enthusiasm and unbridled confidence; yes, Free Energy sounds like a Thin Lizzy song, but authentically so. It’s all of the sunny, uncomplicated fun of classic glam-rock, with none of the silliness.” -The Onion A.V. Club  

“When I saw the Onion review it kinda blew my mind because I’ve been a fan of the Onion since I was in high school. So whatever they write about us, I’ll be happy. They have really good music writing, actually. So that’s cool.”

“Straight up rock that goes right at you and punches you in the face and doesn’t stop being awesome. All the way through. The guitars get right in your ears and won’t get out and take over your mind like Kahn’s[sic] ear worms. The bass gets right down, hits you in the gut and kicks you in the behind.” -Chris B., user

“Wow! Well, I’d like to thank Chris B. for commenting on It sounds like he has some anger problems [laughs], and he’s using our record as a scapegoat for his violent tendencies. I’m glad it’s inspiring physical action. I dunno if punching people in the face is the most constructive thing, though.”

“[James Murphy]’s taken the Minnesota band formerly known as Hockey Night and turned them into a kind of tongue-in-cheek Journey. Everyone involved is no doubt feeling very smug thinking about how Brooklyn hipsters in trucker caps will fall for it.” -NME

It sounds like this guy has bought into the whole press about James Murphy and DFA and thinks it’s all hipster stuff. I’m afraid of hipsters—people who look really cool freak me out because I think they’re gonna be mean. DFA is a haven for nerds. I would be the first to put my arms around this writer and have a beer and tell him what a nerd I am.”

“The only clue that this record came out in 2010 is the lead vocals: Paul Sprangers sings with a laconic ease that wouldn’t have existed before Pavement. His lazy phrasing and slightly pitch-challenged style don’t wreck the illusion, though, they just add a human element in a way that a singer full of chest hair and bravado could never have done.”

”I will say this—on the next record I’ll definitely take the singing more seriously. When we recorded with James, he has an espresso machine at the DFA offices, and I would have espresso before recording and also another one while recording. And espresso is not good for your vocal cords, it dries you out. Oftentimes I’d be beating my brains out trying to sing on these songs. But I’m trying to become a better singer, to be totally honest. I know that’s not very cool, but I’ll try to take it more seriously. I think the Pavement thing is true. I think there’s other talk-speak singers that I’m inspired by before Stephen Malkmus—Jonathan Richman, Joan Jett, Lou Reed. But yeah, anyway, no more espresso!”

Fri., May 28



With Jukebox the Ghost + Miniature Tigers

First Unitarian Church

2125 Chestnut St.


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