THE CD: "Know It All"
PERFORMER: The Dig-Its
On "Know It All," The Dig-Its answer their own question asked on their MySpace profile: "What the FUCK happened to rock and roll?" Status-quo ringtones and "commercial crap on the radio" are totally called out at some point as the band looks back (and, forward) on this new 9-song punk rock effort.
The Huntington-based five-piece covers a lot of ground on this CD; where their eponymous green CD found them giving heavy nods to the 60's and 70's, "Know It All" finds the band coming into their own, throwing some grunge, rockabilly, synth, and ska into their rock and roll repertoire.
It always seemed simplistic to call the band "punk" -- their style stands astride 50 years of the best of rock and roll, it seems. With the addition of another guitarist and a new bassist, and getting to record on their own time in their own studio, the results on "Know It All" jump right out at you.
"I've Seen Better Days" opens the CD with up-in-arms, uptempo punk, setting the tone for the CD. Singer Mean Jean seems halfway between morbid depression and and a miraculous change of heart, and you get the feeling singing in this band helps. "Everything seems darker, right before the dawn," she laments, hoping, maybe even praying, that "...things are gonna change..."
"Love Drug" has an L7-type grunge sound, with phaser effects and Jean's droning vocals about a meaningless (and, free) "sordid encounter" with an ex.
Compared to the green CD, there are noticable upgrades in production; the vocals are layered and laced, Harshbringer's fuzzy bass walks right up and slaps you, and, with the extra guitarist you still get the classic riffage and solos that kind of define their timeless rock sound, only it's a fuller sound on this effort compared to the last.
"Goddamn Shame" is how the Dig-Its feel about the cross-branded, ringtone-based rock and roll culture that has steadily evolved as the record companies have gone downhill. This song is a good example of their nebulous punk rock style; I hear Aerosmith in the solos for some reason. Citing influences from Jerry Lee Lewis to The Clash, and smashing their cellphones on the floor, the song is a kind of mission (or brand) statement for the band.
Every CD should have one song that you have to hear over and over again. "Know It All" has that in "Your Song" -- with sing-along choruses, a killer solo, and heartfelt lyrics about a lost loved one, this power ballad sounds like Mike Ness wrote a song for Weezer as Jean sings on the chorus:
"So just stay with me and I will always be/Thinking of you, and you'll be smiling at me/And I know you still love me the same/Even though you're gone"It's so good, that even though the rest of the CD rocks, once you pass this song you want to keep going back to it and listening to it over and over again. The despair and guilt in the lyrics are evident, and the song will appeal to anybody who maybe didn't get to say goodbye to someone like they would've wanted to. An awesome song. Listen to it on their MySpace profile.
"Summer Days" is a rolling, catchy punk rock retrospective on innocence lost; playing punk rock and hanging out with your friends, possibly running from the cops, but before having to pay bills and be an adult.
"Mama Tried" throws a little beer-and-Beam soaked rockabilly into the mix. Ever had to call your parents from jail? You could relate to this song, then. "Wrong Way" is some old school thrash punk.
The curveball on the CD is "January's Cold," a slow, swinging duet with Mean Jean and guitarist L.A. Joe singing about broken hearts and frozen tears. Laced with an ethereal synth organ sound, it is a nice incarnation of the freedom the band must've felt in their own confines. What do I know? I wasn't there.
"Tear It All Down" closes the CD with protest punk against Nationwide, Massey, and the Iraq war. Mean Jean exhorts Dig-Its listeners to open their hearts and minds and become aware of the maxim that if the government doesn't work you can abolish it. That's a Slayer song, right? It's a rockin' song -- as they break it down with some ska/dancehall type riffs -- it just seems tricky attaching your music to causes these days.
The Dig-Its are a band that have done a ton of benefit shows, so it's not like they're putting a message into their music that they don't back up. Their best songs, however, are examples of how rock can be important and meaningful, looking back and telling honest stories about the good and bad things you've been through. The kind of music that The Dig-Its play will always be loved, and will always be popular. I'm just burnt out on the election coverage, and politics in general, I think.
The amazing thing about "Know It All" is that the band recorded the CD DIY-style at guitarist Paul Weaver's Castle Brownskull Studios (located in his house in Huntington). They put a lot of time and effort into the recording, and it shows. Now a five-piece, the band is stronger than they were on the last CD, it's clear. They deserve multiple kudos or stars or thumbs up for this half-hour's worth of self-produced, high energy rock and roll.
Looks like the only member I haven't mentioned in this review is drummer Bob Caution, who hooked me up with the CD. As a last little aside I will admit: I actually tried to avoid listening to the new Dig-Its songs on their MySpace as I awaited the new CD. Sometimes the best things come to those who wait, and I'm glad I waited on this CD. To get your copy, holler at the band on MySpace or catch them at a show.
I just want to know when you can get "Your Song" on your cellphone...
Related: The Dig-Its Keep Rock and Roll Alive