Fire It Up

Many have tried, most have failed, but I tell you there are some new bands, not new at all really, doing everything musically possible to make geezers like me feel young again. Maybe due to their rejuvenating powers, or perhaps because they're simply great bands, these acts are hot fodder for sundry critics and other poseurs. Many have tried to root out whatever heart and soul lies behind the sound of Didjits, and as best as I can tell, nobody's come close. So why bother?

Describing the blazing rage that is Didjits' music is sort of like debating legalization of marijuana. It used to be semi-hip to be a suspected pot puffer, and the argument about the weed's status, both legislative and moral, was considered a worthy topic. Things change. Back in the olden days - the Sixties and Seventies - most people who proffered an opinion on reefer did so without having a clue as to the difference between dirt weed and Thai sticks; the shit was on the fringe. In modern - or is it post-modern? - times, elementary school squirts everywhere have a comprehensive familiarization with drugs of every ilk pounded into their little minds. We all know now.

The "war on drugs," the Republican Era repression, the shifting of generations led to a closure of discussion in many corners. Drugs - no distinction allowed - are bad, bad. Maybe you fire up an innocuous hooter in the evening to get in the mood for some Didjits rock, and maybe you feel that's no big deal. Wrong! You are financing the slaughter of innocent civilians in South America. You are facilitating the spread of crack by filling the coffers of the Colombian cartels. You are the problem.

Or maybe I'm just paranoid. After all, you can't get within smelling distance of the Supreme Court if you ever even joke about toking, but Bill Clinton breezed right along even after admitting that he tried to smoke herb, but couldn't figure out how it's done.

Didjits singer-guitarist Rick Sims figures it's down to the individual, as if individuality still existed. Smoking RJ, and the perceptions that practice engenders, he says, is all relative. "It depends on who you are," he says. "Either people don't give a shit, or think I'm uncool or that I'm really cool. It's different if you're working somewhere that does drug tests on the employees. But I can do whatever the fuck I want."

Sims doesn't consider the political ramifications significant, but it's not so much that he's self-centered or lackadaisical. Nah, it's priorities. "If you're gonna get behind a cause that matters," he says, "NORML is at the bottom of the list. If they wanna get behind something, they should write songs against child molesters, child abuse. Rapping about the right to get high is one thing, but to put all your effort into that...I'd rather just stash it and try not to get busted."

Maybe the times are changing again, and not just because rock stars can get away with misdemeanors. High Times has become more political than party. The pro-buddage campaign gears itself toward legitimacy - hemp seed oil as fuel! - rather than repeating the fact that sparking spliffs never will bring about the downfall of civilization, and if folks want to fire up, it's their right, or should be, at least in a society that permits Cisco and Everclear to be sold over the counter to anyone with a fake ID.

Certainly the times have changed for rock and roll. The youngbloods who were on the cutting tip in the genre's infancy are now as old as stone, and they're still out there making money, if not worthwhile music. Bruce Springsteen is married with children. For many reasons, rock can no longer be considered anti-parent material. Parents - grandparents - were born into a world where rock was already established. Revolution is passe.

So I'm a bit surprised when Sims is offended by a question about his core audience. "Jesus Christ," he responds. "For young people? It always has been. Like me, I'm 30, I still want to hear what I play, obviously. Young kids obviously dig it. Others think, I'm old so I have to change. Your girlfriend or boyfriend doesn't get into it, it was a phase of life that I'm out of now, so I'll listen to the Grateful Dead." The Dead might be a bad example, considering it's one rock outfit that has somehow remained cool - or uncool - for centuries. The Dead is either consistent or stagnant. "If you're really out to do it," Sims goes on, "you go out to have fun, or live it, rather than trying to sell records. [Dinosaur rock bands] are just sucking everything out of a name. They're not making good music any more, the heart's not in it."

So what happens when Sims and his cohorts - brother Brad on drums and Doug Evans on bass - reach the age of Mick Jagger and Roger Daltrey (both of whom are 48)? "Who knows?" Sims says. "I don't know. When we hit our 50s, you'll have to ask us then."

Maybe we will. But for now, to get to the heart and soul of Didjits, we've asked Mr. Sims to lie on a couch and play word association. Actually, band association.

* The gangsta rap trio that, like Didjits, illustrates some of its material with cannabis leaves and, unlike Didjits, shells for NORML, Cypress Hill: "Don't know them."

* Made-up hard-rock progenitors who are currently in the midst of a major hype campaign, KISS: "Idols, an inspiration to me, especially at an early age."

* The band whose "Mr. DNA" Didjits cover, Devo: "Same thing as KISS. And they were my introduction into the punk rock thing."

* Another band Didjits have covered, the Dickies: "I just recently started getting into them. We were always being compared to them, so I was wondering, Who the hell are these guys?"

* The band Didjits are currently touring with, Alice Donut: "They're very good, one of the best live acts that exist today. I'm not just saying that. That's why we had an interest in playing with them. We wouldn't play with a band for the hey of it."

* The world's most popular poseur, Hammer: "Don't know him."

* The band whose music matters least, Nirvana: "What else can be said? You know what's going to happen. I saw a kid the other day with his hair cut like Nirvana. The whole thing is hilarious. There'll be another one next year. But don't get me wrong, I'm not taking anything away from them and what they are. Now they're big and famous, so there's a certain amount of jealousy. People don't address how the album was musicwise. It's just long hair, and fame and fortune is fleeting. I liked the last album on its merits, the new one isn't as wild and crazy, it's more accessible. That's fishy. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt."

* The Beatles: "The reason I'm playing music. Those were the first records I ever bought. Best band in the world."

* The coolest hard-rock, make-me-feel-young band this side of Didjits, Freaky Fukin Weirdoz: "Don't know 'em."

* A band whose fourth album, Full Nelson Reilly, has lit my soul on fire, and whose live rep precedes them in a big way, Didjits: "Financially dissatisfied. Philosophically trying.


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