90FM Album Review: Free Energy – Love Sign
Taylor Christian

As a recovering Minnesotan, I was a big fan of Red Wing-based superhook indie rock band Hockey Night. With their melodic throwback to the days of Pavement and other works from Steven Malkmus, Hockey Night put out two spectacular albums (“Keep Guessin’” and “Rad Zapping”) during their run from 2002 to 2007. With the deflating news arriving in 2007 that Hockey Night would be dissolved, the 2009 formation of Free Energy by the Wells brothers and Paul Sprangers, all members of Hockey Night, was more than welcome. Developing Hockey Night’s overwhelmingly catchy sound into soaring power pop, Free Energy released their debut album “Stuck on Nothing” to overwhelmingly positive review from a multitude of sources including the hipster capital, Pitchfork.

Being such a fan of previous works from the band’s members, and even the band’s previous works, seeing Free Energy’s sophomore album “Love Sign” settling so comfortably into such familiar territory was a disappointment to me. The songs, no doubt, preserve the outward bliss we have come to expect from the group, but seem to embrace a “clean” sound that falls dangerously close to simplicity. From the first track, the album’s namesake, it’s very clear the goal of the songs is to worm their way into your brain and never leave, a goal the band is largely successful in. However, if this catchiness does bring you in for a closer look at the album, a disturbing lack of depth emerges from every song. Very little implicit meaning lies behind the albums bubblegum track titles like “Girls Want Rock” and “Dance All Night,” which turn out to be about just that, girls liking rock music, and dancing all night. Some have viewed this as the band only trying to create a clean, fun, rock ‘n’ roll album, but if I remember right, rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t have a whole lot of room for “clean” in there with all the sex and drugs.