Racking Up Plays: “Bang Pop” by Free Energy

These are the posts where I gush about some song that I’ve got a huge crush on at the moment, and you put up with it and listen because you’re a good friend.

I heard a rumor that Free Energy used to have a dude who refused to wear aviators or grow his hair out, and he got kicked out of the band (via flickr.com).

“Bang Pop,” Free Energy

Until recently, the only use I’d ever had for the “NOW That’s What I Call Music!” pop compilation series had been the one time I came across Vol. 18 on a jukebox and used it to play “Since U Been Gone.” I had been under the impression that everything featured on these CDs was something I’d either a) already downloaded, b) heard and immediately dismissed, or c) would never want to hear, ever. Then the AV Club began its “THEN That’s What They Called Music!” retrospective—and, well, it confirmed all my worst assumptions. I read Nathan Rabin‘s write-ups every week, however, and in the process of providing him with a convenient avenue to flippantly examine the ephemeral nature of pop music, the “NOW” series actually managed to do something worthwhile: introducing me to Philadelphia-by-way-of-Minnesota band Free Energy.

Sometime around the series’ 33rd volume, the “NOW” folks began to include “bonus tracks,” songs by unknown artists that might fit in on a future “NOW” compilation if they ever became popular chart hits, which, of course, none of them managed to do. Even among these also-rans, Free Energy stands out as a particularly odd selection for a “NOW” album. There’s not a single bar featuring a guest rapper. It’s composed of electric guitar riffs rather than sequencers, loops and samples. The band consciously evokes the sounds (and hair) or the ’70s rather than the hottest, cutting-edge pop trends. Rabin rightly points out that “Bang Pop” “would sound more at place on a Merge or Matador sampler than NOW,” and that it’s an utterly cool tune with “a giant hook that implants itself into the psyche upon the first listen and refuses to let go.”

It’s also just about the purest example of what “power pop” sounds like as a genre this side of Big Star. If any of your friends ever ask you, “What the heck is power pop, anyway?”—which happens to me all the time—just play them this bangin’, hormone-fueled jam.

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