Fifteen

Surprise!

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The task of making what is essentially a 13-song rant interesting is a mighty one indeed, and on Fifteen's 1996 release, Surprise!, the group almost accomplishes this remarkable feat. Fifteen sets up a nice sonic background for Jeff Ott's railing against the Man. There are a few memorable choruses and cleverly phrased missives concerning predictable targets like the police, punk sellouts, landowners, and abusive parents. Highlights include the bouncy ode to depression "My Friend II," "Parking Lots," and "Middle," the opener that is (musically) heads above anything else on Surprise!. The endless complaining becomes taxing, and the naïvely upbeat closer "The End II" cannot atone for bandleader Jeff Ott's obsession with his perceived enemies. Everyone knows that rich landowners and rock stars probably aren't any happier than anyone else, but is it necessary to be so fixated on them? Ott is quite capable of making a valid point; the question that comes to mind after listening to Surprise! is: Can he make one artfully?

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