With their sophomore full-length release Love Sign, Free Energy reinforces their steadfast appetite to produce retro-oriented pop rock. However, some changes were made this time around. John Angello (Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, etc.) took over the producing duties, previously held by LCD Sound System’s James Murphy. The group is also no longer with DFA Records, and has gone on to self-release the album.
From the jump, “Electric Fever” dips into the nostalgia with a slick doubled-up guitar front, and then just in case you missed the memo, the infamous cowbell makes a not so stealth entrance into the party. The following track “Girls Want Rock” has that anthem-in-the-making feel signified by its initial use of handclaps which provides an influential nod to pop-rock champions The Cars, and is realized by the chorus, “Wild life, it’s alright /all around the world tonight.”
Free Energy doesn’t try to mask their musical intentions. Song after song has that “school’s out, let’s celebrate” aesthetic appeal. The drums and bass are used in that manner building suspense and anticipation, and are culminated by an aggressive yet subliminally premeditated guitar solo.
While the album does show on a slower side with a song like “True Love,” Love Sign doesn’t deviate that far from the script. At their best, Free Energy are producing sleek party-inspired rock harnessing simple user-friendly songs that are ideally used as the soundtrack to a host of fun activities. At it’s worst, the record sounds like the nondescript background music in a Brat Pack film.
This music may not be deep from a lyrical point of view dabbling in the area that detractors call “cheese,” but it delivers in its ability to lighten the air in a room. Love Sign isn’t a cerebral album. It doesn’t break the pop-rock mold, but the band never promised that from the get-go. Love Sign is nicely packaged as a feel-good party record complete with choruses begging for crowds to sing in unison. With its catchy hooks and upbeat mentality, the album may be one of this year’s guilty pleasures. - Michael Colavita