Record Label: Fake Chapter
Release Date: August 30, 2005
If pretty melodies and precise vocals are your thing, you won’t like the Sixfifteens. Singer John Carlton often shrieks and wails over his band’s otherwise radio-friendly guitar riffs, separating it from the growing legion of indie-turned-major artists. The Sixfifteens have opened for Modest Mouse, but they won’t be joining them on Epic Records (or any major label) any time soon.
It’s easy to question the placement of the first two tracks on Feature, Conference, Transfer, as neither establishes the band’s true sound. Instead, they wallow in the depths the mundane, like Hawk Nelson without the slick vocal production.
After these two failed experiments, “Tex Watson” is a welcome change. Its soaring chorus and catchy verses propel it near rock-anthem status. The only thing holding it back is its unnecessarily long interlude, which pushes it past the 5-minute mark. Apparently the Sixfifteens have yet to learn to value of brevity.
The vocals make or break many of the album’s remaining tracks. “Transmission is Static Free” features a catchy guitar hook that would fit in nicely on the Strokes classic debut, Is This It. However, Carlton’s yelped vocals overshadow the song’s fantastic instrumentation. Any melody at all would save it, but he actively refuses to include one.
Oddly enough, the following song, “I’m a Shit,” succeeds for the very same reason its predecessor fails. Carlton sings with the same style, but the guitars complement it rather than contradict it. The result is a raucous punk smash that is surprisingly reminiscent of the Suicidal Tendencies.
Obviously, the Sixfifteens have been heavily influenced by Pavement. The driving, almost dissonant guitar lines that rocketed Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Slanted and Enchanted into the hypothetical indie-rock hall of fame also populate Feature, Conference, Transfer, especially at its best moments. The title track, in particular, could well have been a Crooked Rain b-side. Likewise, “Everything Brand New” draws heavily from Pavement, but adds a bit more harmony and speed.
The best, most interesting track here is the closer, “The Rapture.” Carlton’s vocals are at their nastiest, evoking Jeff Rosenstock of the Arrogant Sons of Bitches and Bomb the Music Industry! Its guitars churn with more ferocity than the rest of the album, and drummer Joel Lilley is at his finest. Shockingly, the song doesn’t drag on like the rest of the album – it actually ends right when it should.
Perhaps it was written last, when the band already had the nine songs worth of experience to draw from. Or maybe they just wanted to end the album on a high note. Either way, it worked. Hopefully the “Rapture” will serve as a sign of things to come for the group.