Optimist International is a band of three anonymous San Francisco boy scouts dedicated to bringing the virtues of kind, helpful, obedient, cheerful, clean living to the masses. Founded in late 1996 on the dual premise of "blending a 'sense-through-nonsense' approach to music with a general interest in the well-being of mankind," they've since issued an enlightening pocket-sized pamphlet, "Optimist International: How It Can Work for You," and a persuasive 7-inch (on their own Mangina Records) featuring the sing-along "Dirty Skirt" and the morally uplifting dance number "Wack-ass Caucasian Two-step Chicken." OI's ethical leaflet explains how to "get in on all the fun and excitement of being an Optimist" -- i.e., "right with God" -- by following rules like "Do not hurt or kill harmless things without a reason."
The spirited music echoes the edgy grooves of pioneering proselytizers NoMeansNo and the Minutemen, but the Optimists prefer more conspicuous revelry. Frenzied but friendly trailer-park vocals and disorienting punk-warped guitar bait heathen listeners; the daft lyrical positivity reels them away from darkness. On "Dirty Skirt," after playfully teasing, "You've got a dirty skirt/ I've got a swingin' goiter," the singer dazzles with a random act of kindness: "How 'bout I buy you a gift/ It's a gift / It's called stain remover." Optimist International is an inspiration.
-- Sam Prestianni
Optimist International appears with Double U and the Cubby Creatures on Friday, July 3, at 10 p.m. at the Tip Top Inn, 3001 Mission (at 26th Street). Tickets are $5; call 824-6486.