Stroke 9's new album Rip It Off, 10/10/02

From: Kristin
Category: Other stuff
Date: 10 October 2002


“Stroke 9? Aren’t they the 'Little Black Backpack' people?” That’s what I normally hear when I mention something about the band. Actually, I was one of those people until not too long ago. Then I was at a show (to see another band) and I was floored. Not only did they put on a fabulous show, but I have never had a band’s lyrics register so completely with me hearing them the first time. They played about 40 minutes or so, and afterwards I needed to see them again. I had become a S9 junkie. So I went home and counted the days (17 to be exact) until the next album came out.

That album was "Rip It Off". It’s been three years since their last CD (of "Little Black Backpack" fame) came out. It is clear that they didn’t just quickly churn out a regurgitated version of the previous CD – they spent the three years touring and seeing which songs worked live – making this album one made up of “the good songs” and which mirrors the concert experience.

The writing on "Rip It Off" is fabulous. Every listener can find personal meaning in the words, and lead singer Luke Esterkyn delivers them with emotion-filled sincerity. “Wherever you go, whatever you do, don’t say I never loved you,” Esterkyn sings in "Vacuum Bag", another of S9’s post break-up songs that make you sadly wonder if these guys have ever had a happy relationship.

Unlike many of today’s bands where the vocals are everything, Stroke 9 backs theirs with actual music. I would be equally excited about an entirely instrumental version of this album. John McDermott on lead guitar is a true musician, and, not trying to sound like a 12 year old, he rocks. You can’t help but play a little air guitar. Kudos also to bassist Greg Gueldner, who shines on such tracks as “Reject” and the beautiful “California”. And finally, drummer Eric Stock will have you pounding on your desk or steering wheel. In the words of my 57 year-old mother, “he is really talented”.

S9 has reworked this album since its initially-scheduled release of September 2001 to ensure it flowed, and it does, making it one of the few recent releases I actually listen to from start to finish rather than putting one song on repeat (although it goes without saying that you must hit the repeat button whenever the temperature-elevating “Do It Again” starts playing). The album starts out hard and fast with “Latest Disaster” and “100 Girls”, the first two singles from the album, which really make you want to get up and move. There’s the satire “Kick Some Ass” (from Jay and Silent Bob fame), and then the album slows down a bit from there, but doesn’t really get slow except for the ballad “Anywhere” and “California”.

"Rip It Off" is not your usual second (studio) album. Stroke 9 are polished performers who clearly love what they are doing, putting all of themselves into their music. So buy, download, burn, borrow or otherwise get your hands on this one, and by the time John belts a falsetto “take me home”, you’ll want to.

5 stars, two thumbs up, and all that stuff :)

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