This isn't a huge departure from the bands breakthrough album 'Nasty Little Thoughts' but with a band like Stroke 9 who have a great nack for penning unpretentious catchy little rock songs they are well within there right to hold on to a 'If it aint broke don't fix it' Mentality.
With this album Stroke 9 have created another album filled with great pop hooks and quirkey lyrics that will pretty much appeal to anyone who is a fan of 90's Americana or just someone who likes there rock songs in catchy, easy to digest three minute bursts.
From the punchy power pop of first single 'Kick Some Ass' (which was the lead song from the 'Jay and Silent Bob strike back soundtrack) to the tender ballads (and album stand outs) 'Vacuum Bag' and 'California' Stroke 9 have once again produced an album overflowwing with songs that it is rather hard to dislike.
If you liked Stroke 9's previous album 'Nasty Little Thoughts' then you'll love this. 'Rip It Off' is in a similar vein and style so there aren't many surprises, but when the last album was so good, there's no need for this apple to fall too far from the tree.
This album has something for everyone - the punk singles with catchy choruses and amusing lyrics (Latest Disaster, Kick Some ***), the intense anguished rock songs (Reject) and some very cool, chilled ballads (California). Also worth mentioning is the brilliant Do It Again, one of those songs that you can't get out of your head and that shows off a slightly larger vocal range than I aware Stroke 9 possessed.
If you're new to Stroke 9 then I highly recommend them and would advise you buy either this album or 'Nasty Little Thoughts' rather than starting with their newer 'All In' CD. You'll probably love Stroke 9 if you enjoy bands like Jimmy Eat World. Also, although they are lighter than Sum 41, and punkier than Barenaked Ladies and 3 Doors Down, if you like any of those bands you're likely to enjoy this.
(review also posted on amazon.co.uk)
Stroke 9 grew out of a 'rock band' class in Marin County, California back in 1990 where Luke Esterkyn and Greg Gueldner first met. The first incarnation of the band came out of this class and lasted until the end of term.
In Summer 1991, returning from college Luke & Greg failed to get their old band mates interested and recruited two new members, one of which was an old friend John McDermott. This new line up recorded their first 'album', sold by walking around malls playing the CD, at gigs and in local record stores. This sold pretty well and all 1000 copies disappeared.
They put together another demo of their songs a year or so later and started to gain audiences for their live gigs that were not just 'family and friends'
Come 1995, with a new drummer recruited, Stroke 9 recorded 'Bumper to Bumper'. A professionally recorded batch of tunes, released on their own label "Records, Man, Records!". Again there was not that many printed, around 1000 at first, and they sold out very fast, again only through malls, gigs and local shops. Though presumably they made more of them because this album does occasionally turn up on Ebay, and well worth buying it is to!
The Stroke 9 I know and love now came together in 1997 when Eric Stock joined on the drums. They began earnestly searching for a record deal and were signed by Cherry records a division of Universal Records. Their first major label album came out of this deal and 'Nasty Little Thoughts' catapulted Stroke 9 into the big time.
Then in 2002 came their second major release, 'Rip It Off'. In a cheeky manner the album cover, and the disc itself, parody the music industry's obsession with people copying music and making their own discs. Both consist of just a simple silver disc with the band name and album title written on as if with a black marker onto your own copied or downloaded version.
Stroke 9 have a hard edged rocky poppy sound, New Breed as the press has coined it. What I would describe as rock guitars with harmony, melody with drum power, a kind of cross between the punk power of Green Day and melody of Bon Jovi. Damn it is actually hard to say exactly what they sound like, mainly due the fact that everyone I would compare them to hardly anyone has ever heard off, but a pop/rock band where the focus is on the rock would be the best I can think of! Just look at the band info below and you can see by what they play, and what they don't play, what they concentrate on sound wise.
John McDermott - Guitars & Background vocals
Eric Stock - Drums
Luke Esterkyn - Vocals & Guitars
Greg Gueldner - Bass
Stroke 9's last album, 'Nasty Little Thoughts', is one of my all time favourites. I never tire of listening to it and I had very little hope of the band matching that release. They didn't it has to be said, but they did record a number of scintillating songs. The overall result may not be as good, mainly due to a few disappointing songs towards the end of the album, but it is still a great album and certainly opens on all cylinders!
'Latest Disaster' is the tale of a girl who just cannot pick the right men; in fact the most recent one has just become her 'Latest Disaster'! The twin guitar sound opens up, quickly joined by the drums and eventually Esterkyns vocals. Slowly building up the tempo and the song hits full stride.
'100 Girls', an ode to all the girls 'who've left me passed out on the floor' and 'Kick Some A**' are the two fist pumping, foot pounding, rocking songs on the album. Both these songs have been on the playlist section of my PC music player ever since they came out. These are what modern rock is all about, Green Day step aside Stroke 9 are here to play! Well okay maybe they don't quite reach Green Days heights but they a very, very close to it in my opinion.
Sandwiched between these is a glorious, slow paced (but not a ballad!) ode to two people with different aims in life, lovers who will never quite bridge that gap between them no matter how great their love for each other is. Two glorious lines tell you everything about this song...
"Remember that trip,
You asked me where we were going,
I said Barcelona,
You said that's not what I meant"
"Don't hate me,
Don't regret me,
Don't ever forget me,
Wherever you go, whatever you do,
Don't say I never loved you"
'Don't Worry' and 'Do it Again' follow the opening four powered onslaught and while not as good as those four they would certainly grace many an album by lesser pop/punk/rock bands. And maybe this is where Stroke 9 go wrong, those four songs are just so good that all the rest pale in comparison 'Do it Again' has a lack of electric guitar and a very subdued drum sound, not quite acoustic but very close. Slow burning lyrical excellence that just gets me moving in time to it every listen.
Track 8, 'We Were Wrong', is another slower song, making too many in a row, and is probably the worse song so far. Still it isn't a bad song just not as good as Stroke 9 fans should expect.
'Reject' brings a bit more of a rock sound to the album. The guitars start driving again and the drums go up a notch.
Finally we reach the end of the album, and the worst tracks. 'Anywhere' does nothing for me, too similar to other slower songs on the album and 'Lead The Way' has some very screechy vocals from Esterkyn, something that puts me off straight away!
'California' does finish the album with a touch of class though. A nice crawl through the feelings Esterkyn has about California and cities.
Overall I used to be disappointed in this album, it was not the follow up to Nasty Little Thoughts I hoped for. I dismissed the album, though not the group, and while I have listened to it on and off since I bought it, it has been pulled off the shelf that often. Listening to it again to do this review I find a new appreciation for it, there are more good songs on it than I thought and only two I do not really like. This will make appearances in my CD player more often from now on, as will 'Bumper to Bumper' and 'Nasty Little Thoughts', and I will be off to search out copies of their new release 'Last of The International Playboys as soon as it comes out
If you like such bands as Green Day and Good Charlotte but would like a bit more melody to your music then this album is well worth getting, I recommend it whole heartedly to any fan of poppy punk rock, once heard you will not forget this band!
Prices and availability:
Amazon - £9.98
Ebay - £9.32
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Latest Disaster
2 100 Girls
3 Vacuum Bag
4 Kick Some Ass
5 Don't Worry
6 Just Can't Wait
7 Do It Again
8 We Were Wrong
11 Lead The Way