Fifteen - Lucky (Cover Artwork)


Lucky (1999)

Sub City

Socio-Political Justice has been intwined with punk rock since its very conception, midwifed by British working-class youth who refused to accept either of the two dismal choices offered them: either poverty on the dole or dehumanizing alienation in a rapidly declineing industrial sector. In the near three decades since, Political Punk has matured emmensly as bitter complaints of 'No Future' discovered a little theory and began a more focused sonic anatagonism. Dispite all this progress, the poltics of punk has been plagued by impersonal, simplistic sloganeering or, at the opposite end, equally empersonal, dictionary laden 3:00 summaries of Chomsky's latest work. Both tend to immediately turn off anybody whose voice (and fist) isn't allready raised in the revolutionary choir.

A few bands, however, manage to create strikingly personal political songs that are able to touch even the most staunch neo-con at their most human level. One of the first things that struck me about Fifteen's 2nd to last LP,'Lucky', (aside from its polished production) was Jeff Ott's ability to do exactly this. The album opens with the warbling 'goooo' of Ott's infant child as the band launches into 'Family Values' in which he sings, over traditional midtempo power-riffage,

"Lately I've been working in a factory wage slave that's me /Lately I've been working filling barrels 10,003 / How much wine is enough, to sell to americans/How many products are enough, to sell to Americans/ How much profit is enough for one rich man to make off my labor/Because he knows damn well it comes at the expense of me having time for my children/Family values means:burn down the factory"

Such a message is an infinitely more effective, and sincere sounding, call for labor reform than screaming tired Old Left slogans like "We Don't Need the Boss, the Boss needs Us....STRIKE!!". Lyrically, the rest of the album follows the same human lines.

Musically, there is nothing especially innovative about Fifteen except for frequent displays of musicianship interjected between the traditional 3 chord progressions. However, such musical deviations coupled with Jeff Ott's unique, oddly melodic voice (my closest comparison vocally is Dan from Alkaline Trio's work with Tuesday) make 'Lucky' musically stand out strongly from the masses of similiarly sounding punk 3-chorders. Nothing groundbreaking, mind you, but guaranteed to perk the ears at first listen. As far as punk goes, witch is admittedly not far, this album is without question in my personal top 10. For that reason, I'm tempted to give it a 'classic' score, and know that I do think it's that good, but after steping back as objectively as possible, I recognize its really around an 8. Not for everybody.

In short, 'Lucky', and Fifteen, are perfect for the informed politically interested looking for a little melody and humanity in an politically charged album.