Calafrio

Stroke 9

Independent release, 2020

http://www.stroke9.com

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/03/2020

Here’s something I never thought I’d be writing about. Twelve and a half years after their last disc and some twenty years removed from their biggest hit, “Little Black Backpack,” California rockers Stroke 9 has returned from seeming oblivion with a new album. Done entirely on their own with help from longtime Tom Petty drummer, Steve Ferrone, the band is essentially starting over on this release. Not that the band ever disappeared completely; they’ve been putting out cover songs online for the last two years or so, but it is still surprising to hear from them again. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The opening title track is lightweight breezy soft rock that’s a change of pace for what we remember of Stroke 9 in the past. It isn’t terrible, but it isn’t that great either. “Big Fan” is a crap song, similar to something The Verve Pipe could have better pulled off in 1996. In a way, this reminds me of Sugar Ray’s comeback album from 2019 where they went in a deliberately cheesy yacht rock sound that stripped away any remaining good feeling about their work. This feels the same. Stroke 9 has gone softer, and as a result, they’re less interesting now than they would have been if they had tried this a decade ago.

“Riptide” is a song that just sounds bad; it’s like a strange New Wave track with out of place keyboards and a vibe that’s unlike anything I’ve heard from these guys before. If a band like this has been gone for as long as they have, introducing a new sound isn’t the wisest move. It certainly doesn’t seem to work on this record. Songs like “Riptide” and the oddly titled “Neil Young” lack a certain spark that would have highlighted earlier records and made the band sound more alert and interested in what they’re doing. Instead, we have an album full of head scratchers that certainly leave the audience wanting more.

“The Plan” is about the only song that works and actually sounds well and is representative of the band’s now apparently former sound. The closing ballad “Through the Smoke” is a pretty little number as well that took me by surprise. But two songs out of nearly a dozen doesn’t do enough to make up for the shortcomings that are all over this disc. While this was quite the surprise to see that Stroke 9 had a new album coming out, ultimately, the results are less than stellar and leave all but the diehards expecting more.

Rating: C-

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