On The List :: Free Energy and Small Black @ Bell House [11.10.09]

Free Energy

It was a weird night at Bell House in Brooklyn. Ranging from the committed, almost baroque synth-collisions of Small Black, through the chunky, frankly forgettable, Diehard and closing with the if-you-haven't-seen-them-see-them-now Free Energy, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a little disjointed.

Small Black took the stage in front of something like 20 somewhat engaged music fans. Having seen them at CMJ it wasn't a surprise when big-packaged drums came thundering out of the speakers. They play this sort of broken-hearted synth symphony, but with live drums and thudding bass. If there was a indie version of The Breakfast Club, I would almost certainly want Small Black to do the soundtrack. I scratch, "We are wingless birds/engines of death" onto the back of a receipt. Listening to "Weird Machines," their last song, I think about a weird vision I had in the car the other day. All of us, a generation of overprotected kids who took off and never planned for what would happen next, we are birds rendered wingless in flight and now we silently soar towards the ground; a gigantic, v-formed fatal formation. Of course, this is absurd. But Small Black inspire a level of esoteric absurdity that I'm willing to accept.

Closing the night would be Philadelphia and DFA-signees Free Energy. Over the summer, their eponymous first-single put the screws to me in a way music hadn't in a while. It's a clear throwback, wearing its influences like a cut-off t-shirt or like the Dazed and Confused DVD that 85% of college students have somewhere in their private possessions. The music is unpretentious and uninhibited and the band doesn't play like the room is at 15% capacity, a circumstance more to do with night of the week and neighborhood than quality of music.

In fact, by the time they're motoring through "Free Energy," the audience is moving forward and shuffling around. When the lead-singer is sounding through the best lyric of the night, "We are young and still alive/now the time is on our side," it would be hard not to think of a reversed set of fatal emotions. You, whoever you are, might have clipped our wings. You might have tried to kill us. But we are still alive and this thing is blowing back on you like a hurricane. All those black, wingless birds aren't looking to crash, they're looking to blow you out of the water. If there's one band to see right now it's Free Energy. They are the best American rock band on tour and you should go see them, dead or alive.

Listen :: Free Energy - "Free Energy"
Listen :: Small Black - "Despicable Dogs"

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