Top Five Must-See Shows in Phoenix This Week
It takes a special kind of guts to open a song with pure Marshall amplifier distortion, cowbell, and a couplet as earnest (and potentially Cheez Whiz) as "I'm alive, and the night is young / I survived, now the time has come." Philadelphia rockers Free Energy do exactly that, with the Def Leppard-meets-ELO-meets-modern-Weezer sendup "Backscratcher." Free Energy walks a fine-ass line, tip-toeing between Bics-in-the-air glory and some sort of muddled, impossibly smug post-OK Go/post-sleeveless denim jackets on sale at Urban Outfitters parody.
There are indeed moments on the band's new record, Love Sign, suggesting that maybe there is some sincere desire to rock the heartland at work here. Skip "Hanging," which should have been saved for the Jonas Brothers, and go for "True Love," which embraced giant pop tropes in a way so unabashed it's undeniable. "Girls Want Rock" sounds like prime Fountains of Wayne (minus that band's sly, subversive lyrics), and album closer "Time Rolls On" features the kind of guitar solo that's impossible to resist for anyone whose father ever played them a Boston record, air-guitaring in the living room with Dads are the Original Hipsters abandon.
The record isn't quite as diverse as 2010's Stuck on Nothing, which featured deft production by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, but Love Sign makes up for the lack of variety with heaps and heaps of bubblegum melody. Debating its sincerity might cause one to miss out on the charm; even if it's all a snooty ruse, there's plenty here to pair with a domestic beer if you're willing to indulge your silly side and cut loose. --Jason P. Woodbury
1019 E. Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ