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Friday, April 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 50.0° F  Fog/Mist


Free Energy makes classic rock cool again
No more indie apathy

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Paul Sprangers thinks members of his generation like the kind of catchy, melodic rock that ruled pop music in the 1970s. They just feel guilty about it.

"We always toyed with it growing up," says Sprangers, 29. "But we bought into this 'kill your idol' thing. Pavement brought apathy and nihilism [about] what came before. Bands had to make it intellectual. Classic rock got to be like porn - you wanted to see it but felt like you shouldn't look."

Free Energy confronts the problem head-on at the group's website. There fans are welcomed by the 1970s TV song "Theme from The Rockford Files."

Free Energy's original music is blazing a trail of emotional liberation for the indie rock cognoscenti. It's the kind of optimistic and dreamy summer rock we writers used to describe as "breezy" (before we felt guilty about that). The band plays the Frequency on Thursday, March 4.

Sprangers is Free Energy's long-haired and free-spirited lead singer. He says he has no problem departing from musical norms of our time: "I've felt like a weirdo my whole life."

He grew up the son of a physician in the Mississippi River town of Red Wing, Minn. His childhood friends included brothers Scott and Evan Wells, Free Energy's guitar and bass players.

Sprangers moved east to attend New York University, graduating with a degree in sociology in 2002. After initially returning to Minnesota and playing in a band called Hockey Night, he and Scott Wells formed Free Energy and moved to Philadelphia.

Romance imbues the sound of Free Energy. "Dream City" is a big-chorus sing-along with riffs as clear as the lyrical calls for friendship and good times. "Hey, we're coming out, dancing downtown, feel like whatever we dream about," Sprangers sings.

One classic rock milestone remains for Spranger. "I've never attended a big arena rock show," he says. With Free Energy poised for success, Sprangers might end up playing one before he ever sees one.

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