FIFTEEN: Swain’s First Bike Ride: LP

It’s hard for me to fathom that anyone reading this isn’t already familiar with Fifteen, the band formed and fronted in 1989 by ex-Crimpshrine and notoriously troubled frontman Jeff Ott. This LP is a reissue of their first full-length, originally released in ’91. Fifteen, in my opinion, peaked with their second LP A Choice of a New Generation, but this first record is definitely a noteworthy piece of their legacy. Fifteen were an East Bay punk band tried and true, and while the history books have reclassified many bands of this scene and era to simply be “pop punk,” Fifteen were always different. Lyrically, Fifteen had a straightforward approach on a lot of political and social issues. They occasionally rubbed people the wrong way with their sometimes naïve deconstruction of serious issues and/or (especially on this record) the inclusion of mild spiritual-minded thoughts. But, lacking in sincerity this record was not, mixing in just the right amount of love songs amongst the social commentary. The gruffness of the vocals is what Fifteen is most known for, often so horrible but also so completely great at the same time. The vocals at times might be off key (or seemingly just completely off) while yet always working the perfect amount of magic for the epic Jeff Ott gruff sing-a-long in every song. I loved this record when it came out originally, and even though I probably haven’t really listened to it in twenty years, upon putting this on the turntable I eased right back into it, just like an endearing visit from an old friend. In addition, the fresh re-mastering job on this reissue really gives it a new brightness. While not as essential as the second LP that followed it, this is a great record that helped define ‘90s Bay Area punk. –Mark Twistworthy (Dead Broke, deadbrokerecords.com)