Free Energy, Ty Segall and the Problem Facing Guitar-Based Music

Categories: Free Energy

Free Energy find themselves in a strange new world. A fuzzy, poppy, rock 'n' roll band inspired by '70s acts like Big Star, Thin Lizzy, and The Cars, they grew up on rock. "Paul and I are both from the same small town," says Evan Wells, who started the band with his brother Scott and their friend Paul Sprangers in the last decade when they all still lived in Minnesota. "It had this like pretty amazing classic rock radio station radio station. It's called K-WNG. It's everywhere. Every convenience store, it's ever-present."

Free Energy perform at the Bowery Ballroom on May 5

See also: Live: Best Coast And Free Energy Sweat It Out At South Street Seaport

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Live: Best Coast And Free Energy Sweat It Out At South Street Seaport

Bethany Cosentino (above) and Paul Sprangers, attracting yet more adoration. Pics by Liz, more below.
Free Energy/Best Coast/Loose Limbs
South Street Seaport
Friday, July 23

At tonight's free River to River fete, as with pretty much every outdoor show these days, you had a choice: melt in the sun or drown in the rain. But as you know by now, New York has a talent for concocting a disgusting combination of the two, resulting in yet another balmy, purple-clouded limbo. Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis trio Loose Limbs' dark strain of punk-infused rock ramped up the momentum for Best Coast; the sun was still blazing for the L.A. trio's set, Bethany Cosentino hiding behind flesh-toned Ray-Bans, which she also likes to do indoors. "Never use a towel onstage," she advised us, removing a slather of sweat from her face with one. "Sexy!" someone shouted. "Do you want it?" she asked. But she kept it, probably because she'd need it.

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Watch: Free Energy Go Rock 'n' Roll High School With the Video For "Bang Pop"

In case you didn't get the subtext of every Free Energy song ever, here is the quintet taking over a high school, invading the girls' locker room, smoking in the bathroom, etc., to the buoyant tune of "Bang Pop"--one of many, many songs like this on Stuck on Nothing, their debut LP, which somehow only got formally released this month, though we've been bumping it since last November. Contains tasteful, blurry, ostensibly teenage nudity, if that's your sort of thing. [MySpace]

Free Energy Played Letterman Last Night

Free Energy's James Murphy-produced Stuck on Nothing, which finally got a digital release last week, will almost certainly make it to some tall spot on our year end list; that said, caterwauling singer Paul Sprangers live, sans Murphy, is still the best argument for the studio genius of the LCD frontman going. This band's songs just doesn't sound right without him. But we are happy to see this band make their network television debut on the Late Show with David Letterman--even if Letterman can be seen at the end as the credits roll, shedding the Stuck on Nothing LP he was holding up the camera just moments ago like it was burning his hand. Really, it's a badge of honor if Letterman sort of hates you.

Stream Free Energy's Stuck on Nothing (Finally)

That amazing Free Energy LP that we spent most of last year and a good part of this year so far going on and on and on about? You can finally hear it, at Spinner. Philadelphia's/DFA's finest. We'd recommend a song but that would involve ignoring other songs, and that is not something we are willing to do. [Spinner]

Just In Case You Doubted Free Energy Was Awesome

Look at that cover, world. It's channeling like seventeen kinds of nostalgia with like a mere three elements--which, BIG REVEAL, would be more or less our review of the record, had we heard it, which we may have. "Hope Child" (stream via Pitchfork) is one of the good ones, although there are no real bad ones. Still not over the band leaving "Something in Common" off the record, however. Stuck On Nothing arrives via DFA on March 9th, which is also the day Biggie died. Read into that what you will, or see them for free tonight. [P4K]

Hot Chip And Free Energy Are Doing A Free Show At Highline Ballroom Friday Night

Courtesy of MySpace, but of course. Free Energy are SOTC-approved party-starters ("The most fun I'll see a room have all week," Zach once averred, and that was CMJ week, and Hot Chip's imminent One Night Stand is reliably excellent "Flight of the Conchords but (kind of) serious" electro-pop. Dress warm and be prepared to wait in line.

Free Energy Shamble Over to Daytrotter

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Free Energy's Stuck on Nothin' would easily cruise onto any year-end music list we might make, except for the fact that the record doesn't come out until next year. A self-titled EP with "Dream City" on the A side and "Something in Common"--a top five song for us this year and somehow not on the actual album--on the B side did come out this year, as did mega-anthem "Free Energy." The Philly-based band recently took those three excellent songs and "Dark Trance," another LP teaser that's been floating around, to Daytrotter, where they recorded a typically loose four-song session. Frontman Paul Sprangers still can't really sing live the way he does in the studio (a phenomenon we first picked up somewhere between the band's first NYC show at Mercury Lounge and their triumphant turn at Webster during CMJ a few months later), but the session's worth it for the bonkers ad-libs alone--"I think I can see the Great Wall! I think I can see the pyramids!"--not to mention the abrupt and premature ending to "Free Energy." Uh, "CUT!" [Daytrotter]

CMJ: Surfer Blood at the Cake Shop; Free Energy, the Golden Filter, and Cold Cave at Webster Hall's Studio

You'll never be this young again. Surfer Blood photo by Rebecca Smeyne.
You feel sorry for Surfer Blood, you really do. It's CMJ Tuesday, there's some invisible wheel turning, and when you walk into the basement of Cake Shop at 4:30pm on a sunny afternoon you all of a sudden know where the arrow stopped. Human sacrifice is still this festival's weirdest ritual: the singling out of one act just naive enough to accept invitations to 11 or 12 different showcases, unmindful of the wear and tear and constant scrutiny. By Saturday, they'll be an entirely different band, if they don't break up before then.

But at Cake Shop, for the first one, they merely seem a bit dazed. The billion-band afternoon showcase delirious-soundman sound is not a great fit for these guys, who've surely been chosen in part by whatever cruel god runs this thing for how aptly they sum up any number of zeitgeists: Very Best/Fool's Gold post-world rhythms, Free Energy pelvis-thrust Thin Lizzy revivalism, no-fi reverb and feedback, and just a hint of some early Weezer pop-metal formalism. Frontman John Paul Pitts rocks a yellow sweater and mumbles something about being "slaves to rave"; he also ad-libs the word "spiritual" into a song-title that already had the words "floating" and "vibes" in it--again, these guys are playing like 11 more times.

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News Roundup: The Life and Legacy of Arthur Russell, 1.6 Band Live on WFMU, Free Energy's "Something In Common"

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--The Arthur Russell revival that began somewhere around the 2004 issues/reissues of Calling Out of Context and The World of Arthur Russell and seemingly peaked with the release of Matt Wolf's tremendous 2008 documentary Wild Combination continues, in all places, at NYU, who will host a conference on Russell's life in October. Kiss Me Again: The Life and Legacy of Arthur Russell will take place Saturday, October 10th at NYU's Tisch Performance Studies school and features old collaborators Peter Zummo and Ernie Brooks alongside critics Simon Reynolds and Tim Lawrence, who wrote Hold on To Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene. Somewhere in there Wolf's doc will be screened, and the likes of Nick Hallett will play at Housing Works and Public Assembly. More info at Reynolds' blog and at the symposium's official site.

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