Back in 1999, modern rock radio was treated to a little jealous rage anthem called “Little Black Backpack”, bringing San Francisco alternative rock band Stroke 9 into the mainstream. They hung around a little longer with their second single “Letters”, and their album Nasty Little Thoughts went gold. Unfortunately, some acts only strike gold once, no matter how hard they try.
And judging by their follow-up album Rip It Off, released three year later in 2002, it’s pretty clear they tried hard. The album contained a handful of solid tracks, such as the self-referencing sequel to “Backpack”, “Kick Some Ass“, the tongue-in-cheek “100 Girls”, and the lo-fi ballad “California”. And while “Kick Some Ass” was the official single, soundtracking the end of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the label failed to promote the song and it fizzled out at radio. Perhaps it was too obvious a follow-up to their first hit. Either way, I think they should have gone with the album’s true highlight, “Vacuum Bag”. Regretful yet subtly humorous lyrics look back at a failed relationship and a huge chorus packs the tune with a punch. The lyrics bring the story to life, as the narrator reminisces about an awkward conversation while going to Spain, or dancing to Peter Frampton on Independence Day. No matter how specific they get, the song still feels emotionally universal to anyone who can look back and themselves and realize there were times when they “had no clue”.
Stroke 9 have released three albums since Rip It Off, the most recent being 2007’s Last of the International Playboys.