The guys in Freeloader obviously have to know how much they sound just like the Stones on a couple of their songs here. And that’s not a bad thing. Not since Exile On Main St. have I heard the Stones sound like the Stones. Someone tell the Glimmer Twins to seriously hang it up, already. Honestly, it’s as embarrassing as watching Pete Townshend trot out Tommy every decade in some “new” fashion and then bitch about (like he always does) the deaf, dumb, and blind boy not being the greatest Who album, yet you have to give the people what they want. Personally, I’d just like to see them never play “Won’t Get Fooled Again” live for the rest of my life. Note to Pete: The Iron Man, Psychoderelict and the Lifehouse box set were dull. Sometimes it’s quite OK to not record another bloody concept album.
But I digress (largely). We’re here to discuss Freeloader and their Custom/10 album. Seriously, I haven’t heard a better take on the Stones than the glorious “Lemonade”. It sounds just like it could have been stripped from Sticky Fingers. Why, when was the last time Mick and Keith sounded so happily dirty, anyway? “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”? “Brown Sugar”? Who knows? Let’s just say hearing lines like “I’ll be your pony driver / Your phony tutor / Your junket pilot / Your siclo suitor / Would you like to take a ride inside my / Antebellum limousine? / It’s a clean machine . . . don’t be obscene” mingling with lead Freeloader Scott Sinclair’s open G guitar is a thrill.
These boys don’t sound at all like another New York City band. Though they may call the Big Apple their home, Sinclair is originally from Texas, while bassist and vocalist Mason Pitts is from North Carolina. This would explain the heavily southern groove resting within the songs of Custom/10. So that leaves drummer Adam Chasan as the only original New York resident in the group. Of course, he lays down that Charlie Watts beat that’s as right on time as the 5:15 from Duluth. Never late, never early. Steady as she goes. That’s Freeloader.
But the Stones aren’t just what the band is all about. No, they’ve got their own thing going, too. The opening “W.I.P.” twangs and struts righteously as Sinclair tosses out his smoky bar room worries. “Walk on by, walk on through / One likes me, one loves you / But they’re both of them leaning toward the door / Bartender please, another brown of courage for / Mister hard-to-get, better lay his bet / Lest his love go unrequited till the morning” goes the first verse. OK, maybe these guys also sound a little like the Georgia Satellites. Or a lot. But that’s not bad. In fact, I like Custom/10 quite a lot up through its fourth track, “Pigeon”. But then, for some strange reason, I tend t onto enjoy the rest of the disc. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the band suddenly detours into a kind of VH1 territory. I don’t know why, but the rest of the tracks here just aren’t as good. It’s kind of like the band just did an about face and started mingling their Rolling Stones with Dave Matthews or Train. Now I’m sure that that will probably delight fans of both of those groups, but since I’m a fan of neither, it only strikes me as disappointing.
Not to say the rest of the album is bad, but it doesn’t carry the same kind of energy found in the first quarter of the album. “Easter Lament” and “Renee” have a good bounce to them, but songs like “Two Chips” and “Ghost Town” tend to grow weary rather fast. I wish this wasn’t the case, as I feel that Freeloader certainly knows how to rock, and I think that this is what they are best at doing. But as the old saying goes, you can’t please everyone.
Still, four or five good songs certainly makes Custom/10 well worth hearing. And as I said, fans of the aforementioned bands might even find a lot more to like here. Freeloader certainly isn’t a group that I have written off, as I see a lot of imagination and serious potential here, even behind the songs I don’t necessarily like as much. It will be interesting to see what the band does next. For now, I’m content to enjoy “Lemonade” until I get sick of it, which doesn’t seem very likely.