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Remember when punk rock didn't need to have a social message or studious comment in it to be great, it just needed to be loud, fast and either about a girl or about getting in trouble? That was great, that was fun and, if you grew up in Canada in the late Nineties, that was Chixdiggit all over. Other than being one of the first Canadian punk bands of their era to get widespread American attention (Chixdiggit's first album came out on Sub Pop and the two after that were released on Honest Don's before the band found a home on Fat Wreck Chords), Chixdiggit made a name for themselves as fine pop tune-smiths who operated proudly within the 'three-chord punk' paradigm and managed to never falter or repeat themselves – until they deliberately re-recorded and re-released their self-titled debut album in 2007.
The release of Chixdiggit! II six years ago gave credence to the chance that the band's catalogue would be received well were it reissued, so now the band has generously offered fans a healthy helping of their best music. Double Diggits! collects all of the music from the band's breakthrough second and third albums, Born On The First Of July and From Scene To Shining Scene, along with a bunch of bonus tracks from the same period and put it all on one CD for easy finding. It's a really handy package to have for new fans who would hunt down all the music anyway, and longtime fans (who probably scratched the hell out of their CD copies years ago, taking them to parties) will appreciate it as well.
Saying that this reissue is 'handy' and 'people could appreciate it' is all well and good, but it says nothing of how the music has held up over the last fifteen years. The truth is that tastes have changed several times over in the last decade right? And punk has been declared dead a few times in that period too, so how good could Double Diggits really sound now, in 2013?
In fact, the music has aged better than that of many of the band's peers.
The surprising timelessness of Chixdiggit's sound is immediately apparent from the very beginning of the first track on Born On The First Of July, “Gettin' Air.” There, the crunchy tone of Mark O'Flaherty's Gibson SG and Dave Alcock's hyperactive, ride cymbal-heavy drumming set a perfect backdrop for KJ Jansen's man-child (in tone) vocals, and listeners will immediately feel a weight lift off of their shoulders. Those already familiar with the band's music will find that they're transported right back to the first time they heard this music, and they'll be totally energized by it. Suddenly, trying to shred a half-pipe again will seem like a fantastic idea, and that sensation won't even fade slightly as the album drops into “My Girl's Retro,” “Chupababras” and “Quit Your Job” (which sounds as revolutionary now as it did in 1998). It's fairly astounding how good these songs continue to sound; while the “classic” albums by other punk bands of Chixdiggit's vintage (Blink 182, the Offspring, Guttermouth, The Queers) played great at the time of their respective releases, they've most definitely lost steam as the years have passed, the songs from Born On The First Of July continue to flaunt the nervous energy they had when they were new.
The energy sprayed out by Born On The First... might still sound good now, but it's only possible to really understand the tremendous creative leap forward that Chixdiggit made on From Scene To Shining Scene with the benefit of hindsight. At the time, Chixdiggit had (rightly) gotten more attention following the release of Born On The First Of July, and that acceptance registers pretty obviously on From Scene To Shining Scene; while its predecessor wasn't loose, light or lackadaisical in tempo at all, Chixdiggit's sound here is focused and (if it's possible) even more direct, and also boasts finer thematic development and lyric sheets on songs like “My Dad vs. P.M.,” “Sweaty And Hairless,” “Going To The Peers” and “Born In Toulouse.” Each of those songs present Chixdiggit at the top of its game creatively and still brims with the energy of a band who knows they've achieved a fantastic high point.
If all that Double Diggits had to offer was the music from Born On The First Of July and From Scene To Shining Scene in their entirety, listeners would already be getting their money's worth at the album's $10.00 (USD) asking price, but Fat Wreck has gone out of its way to make the set even more appealing by including an additional bonus tracks at the end of the record. While they're not all worth hearing, some of the bonus tracks included really are worthwhile, and fans will be really interested to hear them. The alternate versions of “My Girl's Retro,” “Chupacabras” and “20 Times” (which happen to be three of this writer's favorite Chixdiggit songs anyway) are all perfect examples of this; while the differences are small, the slightly grainier production makes for a great teaser for those songs. Better still are “I Should Have Played Football,” “Don't Believe What You Read” and “She Gets All The Girls” because they really hint at a different side of Chixdiggit. There was never any question before that Chixdiggit had a plainly evident streak of The Ramones running through their sound but, on those three tracks, the band really changes it up and really expands Chixdiggit's perceived palette. Fans who thought they knew the band inside out will be thrilled to hear how KJ begins to wander onto further Southwest with a cover of Groovie Ghoulies' “She Gets All The Girls,” which rings with a familiar insecurity, while “I Should Have Played Football In High School” is really more SoCal than anyone would believe a band from Calgary should be able to sound. For those reasons in addition to both Born On The First Of July and From Scene To Shining Scene in their entirety, Double Diggits is a disc worth having. Do yourself a favor, dear reader, and go listen for yourself; you won't be disappointed.
Chixdiggit – Born On The First Of July – “Chupacabras” – [mp3]
Chixdiggit – From Scene To Shining Scene – “Thursday Night” – [mp3 ]
Double Diggits is out now. Buy it here , directly from Fat Wreck Chords.