Prankster Punk

Just as they're getting their feet wet in this country, Canada's Chixdiggit appear headed for a collision of some sort with America's politically correct strata. Their name -- pronounced "Chicks Dig It" -- is bound to be seen as sexist to some. Ditto for song titles such as "Great Legs," "Stacked Like That" and "I Wanna Hump You." All three are on the punk quartet's hyperactive, hook-stuffed Sub Pop debut, Chixdiggit, along with "Hemp Hemp Away," "Toilet Seat's Coming Down" and other provocative selections.

"We've already pissed some people off at home in Calgary," says singer/guitarist K.J. Jansen. "One of the funniest things happened when we posted fliers for a show at one of the universities. Someone had written 'are sexest assholes' under our name, misspelling 'sexist.' And we thought, 'Does that mean we're the best at sex?' "

Aside from the attempts to incur the wrath of feminist groups and uptight parents, Chixdiggit is also busy lining up offenses among its peers in the punk community. Chixdiggit's minute-plus "Henry Rollins Is No Fun" attacks the hard-core Hercules for his sternly disciplined '90s demeanor with jabs such as "he's a prick" and "he don't like girls no more." The insults come within the context of a conversation between a kid and his mother and after the two just met Rollins at Lollapalooza -- hence the cheeky chorus, "Henry Rollins is no fun / Just ask my mom."

Name-calling is one thing, but what kind of a punker brings his mom to Lollapalooza? Guess it depends on how hip your mother is. And the guys from Chixdiggit must be blessed with some especially hip parents to put up with their nasty nonsense.

"My parents are the coolest," says the 24-year-old Jansen, who, between tours, still lives at home. "They listen to Buddy Holly. That's cool, isn't it?"

In case you're wondering, Jansen, the youngest of three children, really did take his mom to Lollapalooza, but he admits the part about meeting Rollins was fictionalized. Still, Jansen's mother often punctuates conversations with a hearty "right on," which, Jansen claims, is almost as hip as hanging with a punk rock legend.

More polite than the Dead Boys, volumes less political than the Dead Kennedys and funnier than the Dead Milkmen, Chixdiggit is likely to remind you a little of all three. But to truly understand the band, you have to look beyond the knowing smirks and the good-natured fooling. If most punk is about angst, attitude and sneers, then Chixdiggit are the anti-punks of punk. Most always, their over-the-top antics are tempered by wide smiles and a generous dose of hooks and humility. It's the last two that raise the group's fast, efficient, high-volume tunes a few notches above parody.

"That 'I know something you don't know' attitude is definitely a punk thing, and I hate it," says Jansen. "We're just out there to have fun and goof off."

Jansen notes that Chixdiggit was a name on a T-shirt before it was a band. In fact, when he and his high school friends Mark O'Flaherty and Mike Eggermont finally got around to buying instruments in 1990, it was the income from the shirts that paid for them. Originally a drummer, Jansen switched to guitar and started singing, Eggermont bought a bass, O'Flaherty traded an old acoustic guitar for an electric and Jason Hirsch put away his bass to be a drummer. By 1991, Chixdiggit was for real.

Later that year, the group relocated to British Columbia just long enough to record the single "Best Hung Carrot in the Fridge" for the tiny Lance Rock label. In 1992, Chixdiggit embarked on a series of van-pool tours around the United States, eventually landing in Seattle, where Sub Pop got wind of the group's loud-and-fast aesthetic and tongue-in-cheek rock star excesses on-stage. After a sordid night of revelry with Sub Pop co-founder Bruce Pavett and his pals in the Supersuckers (the entourage apparently ended up partying with drag queens at a local nightclub), Chixdiggit was as good as signed.

On their Sub Pop debut, which hit stores in May, the members of Chixdiggit display a wholehearted willingness to belittle themselves as often as they belittle others. As the band's lyricist, Jansen never neglects to put his tackier comments in the context of everyday reality and, in turn, make a mockery of them. So while Jansen may holler "great teeth, great legs, great body" or "I wanna hump you" with the enthusiasm of a panting, lascivious womanizer, the females he's talking about aren't imaginary groupies waiting for him in droves backstage; they're the unattainable cheerleading queens who sit perched on benches in packs at the shopping mall -- the same girls who get their kicks out of putting loud-mouthed geeks such as Jansen in their place.

These days, though, rejection isn't an issue for Jansen. He's got a steady girlfriend, a deal with a happening label and a CD's worth of songs to deliver to the masses. Happy and content for now, Chixdiggit is prepared to spread a little of that feel-good warmth to their fans.

"Instead of spitting on them, we like to tell the audience that we love them all -- that if they need a shoulder to cry on, we're here," says Jansen, only half serious. "And you know, that really gets the punks in the crowd angry."

Chixdiggit performs Thursday, June 20, at Emo's Alternative Lounge, 2700 Albany. Doors open at 7 p.m. Free, 21 and up; $7, 18 to 20. Strugglebuggy and Big Top open. For info, call 523-8503.

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Hobart Rowland