Ass-kicking in Intervals

Rip It Off (Universal)
Stroke 9

By Kory Wilcoxson

"How many people want to kick some ass?" has vaulted into my Top 5 Lines to Open a Song. That provocative question leads off Stroke 9's "Kick Some Ass," the best Perpetrating Suburban White Boy anthem since Ben Folds' "Rockin' the Suburbs." When lead singer Luke Esterkyn answers with a falsetto, "I do," you don't know whether to laugh or throw your fist in the air.

"Rip It Off" is an uneven album from this San Francisco-area rock band, but when it's good, it's very, very good. "Latest Disaster" leads off the album and is a great showcase for the band's two strengths: creative songwriting and superb guitar-driven hooks. "100 Girls" and "Vacuum Bag" both rock hard with a tongue-in-cheek cockiness, the latter song boasting an epic chorus worthy of late-80s Bon Jovi.

The album drops off in the second half, with the lyrics trading the self-effacing smirk for broken-hearted sincerity. Such earnestness doesn't play as well for Stroke 9, especially after the smug hilarity of the earlier tracks (on the sex soundtrack "Do It Again," Esterkyn admits that "one thing I forgot was to get to know you"). The band is better off writing songs that seriously, well, kick ass.