Freedom At Point Zero

Not Rated

Without Grace Slick or Marty Balin, the Jefferson Starship is a hulk of a band, desperately in need of worthwhile material and marching inexorably toward oblivion. Literally marching: the one song that de facto leader (and sole original Jefferson Airplane member) Paul Kantner has been rewriting since Blows against the Empire is a dance-proof march that generally carries laughable, grade-C science-fiction lyrics. On Freedom at Point Zero, this song appears in the guise of the title track, "Girl with the Hungry Eyes," "Lightning Rose" and "Things to Come." Only the latter is rendered passable because of its keyboard arrangement. Kantner, as usual, tries to bury his inability to write melodies under some thick group-harmony vocals, with new member Mickey Thomas wailing away at a valiant Grace Slick imitation. But the tunes still sound like warm-ups.

Yet Kantner's compositions are at least recognizably his. That's more than can be said for the characterless heavy-metal cuts by Pete Sears (specialty: predictable dirges) and Craig Chaquico (specialty: riff borrowing — the Allman Brothers' "Revival" in "Rock Music," Blue Öyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" in "Just the Same"). Groups as lame as Judas Priest or Journey could manage the music, but they'd probably reject Jeanette Sears' ohwow lyrics. By default, the LP's high point is "Jane," a four-man committee effort that boasts actual syncopation and a few moments of believable tenderness.

Freedom at Point Zero has plenty of impact on first hearing: the production is dense and vigorous, undiluted by conflict or experimentation. Given these songs, however, it's all wasted energy. After a few listenings, all the arpeggios and sound effects and shouts seem like the pitiful flailings of a band that knows it's obsolete. The album's final words are "It's gonna be all right." Who is Paul Kantner trying to convince?

From The Archives Issue 694: November 3, 1994