Six Going on Seven: American’t (or Won’t)

Six Going on Seven
American't (or Won't)
or Won't

I’m batting zero on this one. Right from jump, before I even knew a thing about Six Going on Seven, I’d figured on hearing some fairly basic indie-style rock, probably with lots of emoting and smart, cynical lyrics — and yes, I was wrong on all counts (except possibly for the “emoting” part, ’cause there’s plenty of emotion on here). These guys have more in common with label-/tourmates Moods for Moderns than The Promise Ring, foregoing the distorted guitars and screaming, thankfully, for retro-ish pop-rock that sends deja vu-induced chills up and down my spine.

In my defense, though, what’m I supposed to think of a band who’s put out stuff on Quicksand-run record label Some, toured with Elliott, and put out a split-7″ with Hot Water Music? Argh. Okay, so I screwed up yet again and prejudged a very cool band based on their past associations — I’ve been doing that a lot lately, it feels like, and on the good side, I’m thinking that maybe that’s a sign that the most recent wave of soundalike, pigeonhole-able rock bands is on its way out (maybe?). Whatever the reality of the situation may be, Six Going on Seven are not a soundalike band . . . or if they are, at least they sound like stuff that not very many other people sound like these days. To start with, there’s a pretty heavy ’80s/early ’90s pop-rock influence on here, harking back to the early days of The Posies, Semisonic, or Mother May I; think handclaps, lots of great melodies, and jangly guitars all ’round.

There’s also a bit of a resemblance to Ben Folds Five or Elvis Costello, particularly in bassist/singer Josh English’s rapid-fire lyrical delivery and ability to use his sandpaper-roughened throat far beyond what you’d expect. The guy’s a damn fine vocalist, and it’s his voice that carries a lot of the songs beyond being mere above-average power pop. From the first couple of lines of “Readying”, the words and voice pull you in, the way relatively few bands are ever able to, and they don’t let go ’til the final notes of the album. The songs hit all the right buttons, lyrics-wise, and manage to be personal and intimate without being overdone. This is good stuff.

That said, the scariest thing about American’t is that it doesn’t really kick in ’til about halfway through — like I said, good stuff, but once the Six Going on Seven guys make it to the alternately jangly and crunchy breakup tune in the middle, “Lately,” the record explodes like a faulty bottlerocket. “Finish Them Off”, the following track, is a short, overfuzzed blast of rock, a nice antidote to some of the more delicate, sweetly-played stuff like “Famous For It”, and the album cruises speedily on from there, with the fast, nimble “#7”, the pretty pop-rock of “Good On Paper,” the delicate, softly desperate “(american’t)”, and the wonderfully beautiful closer “A/K/A”, an incredible track that makes me shake my head in awe. After that, the only thing left is to smile, sit back, and hit “Play” a second time.