Pittsburgh-based act The Freeloaders are a band that knows their roots. There’s never a wrong time to acknowledge where you come from, and this quartet certainly does that (and does it well) on their latest LP, Cheap & Used. This ten song collection is full of songs that nod to rock and roll heavyweights like The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, and Neil Young while also channeling 90s guitar rock like Radiohead, Cracker, and the Jayhawks.
The Freeloaders have an all too familiar origin story – as childhood friends who grew up playing covers of the aforementioned bands, they cut their teeth perfecting the classics… That is, before the pandemic hit. Whether it was an itch from being stuck at home or just a change of heart, this quartet decided to buckle down and start creating their own songs. Cheap & Used is the result of that burning desire to make art, an eclectic-but-digestible mix of songs ranging from waltzes, to twelve bar blues, to straight up rock and rolling goodness.
Opening song “Get Off The Train” introduces us to the hallmarks of The Freeloaders’ sound. With influences like Petty, you can expect a jangly guitar tone with just enough overdrive to give these songs a perfect amount of grit. With the same longing energy as “Summer of ’69,” The Freeloaders rock and roll their way through three and a half minutes of raucous energy with the type of vibe that would be perfect at your local dive bar on a Friday night. They keep the same energy up on track two, “Mind is Wandering.” With a bit more of a Midwest twang (or maybe it’s more of a Southern swampiness), the band swings their way through another bar-rocking rollick.
Lead single “Sick & Tired” claims that title for a reason – with a summery feel and undeniable energy, this one chimes its way into your heart with an opening riff that could fit well on any Strokes album. Around the 2:30 mark, the band launches into a tasty guitar solo, dripping with thick distortion tones and juicy, bluesy melodies. It’s a fun, rambling jam that is tailor-made for outdoor festivals or beer-soaked nights at the pub with your buds – sometimes it’s the simplicity in the songwriting that makes a great tune.
There’s more to Cheap & Used than straight-up rock music – the downtrodden (and personal favorite) “Waltzing Matildas” lives up to it’s name with it’s jaunty 3/4 time signature and Dropkick Murphy’s inspired sound. Later, instead of opting for Cracker’s inescapable “Low,” they opt for a cover of the equally worthy “Don’t F*** Me Up (With Peace and Love)” and absolutely nail it. Even closing track “PCQ” is a change of pace, with it’s jammy vibes and through-an-old-telephone vocal stylings. There’s truly something here for everyone, so the next time you’re hosting a barnburner, think of The Freeloaders when you need something to liven the place up.