Doing research for an upcoming column, I keep seeing, “Strain X is great for listening to music” — as if another type of cannabis existed that rendered chords and vocals down into a dial tone. The truth is, as I enter my 30s I find myself reading music critics rather than trying to keep up with the pop charts.
It’s been seven months since I listened to an album start to finish, and that was an afternoon in Amsterdam between AirBnB’s, high as a Dutch vlieger. After reading one of my favorite columnists, I decided to test this music theory with a bowl of Sour Kush, some R.E.M. and knockoff Beats headphones.
By the numbers: $17/gram, $276/ounce at Native Roots Edgewater, 5610 W. 20th Ave. in Edgewater
In one of the most revealing interviews I’ve read with former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, Grantland’s Stephen Hyden mentions David Bowie’s 1977 appearance on Bing Crosby’s Christmas special. I was negative 5 years old at the time, but it’s perfectly analogous to Sour Diesel and OG Kush coming together to make this strain.
Diesel is clearly the Bowie in this case, a roaring sativa that embodies the mental rush and energy of a well-orchestrated circus — sans calliope. That leaves an end-of-his-career Crosby as the OG Kush: The classic crooner with no place at a party that isn’t Christmas-adjacent.
Combining the two, you’d expect an oddly satisfying hybrid that would mirror their duet of “The Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth.” This time, what I was left with was a poorly arranged facsimile of a generic Kush strain with little to no discernible Diesel.
This Sour Kush looks and smells like the mass-produced warehouse weed that those who opt out of the dispensary system decry. The normal pungency — pure gasoline tanker that jackknifed into the Michelin Man — is entirely absent, with a slight sweetness that shouldn’t be misconstrued as a positive. While you’ll rarely see the structure indicative of Sour Diesel genetics in Sour Kush, the nose of this strain might as well be Mad Max Kush with such a dramatic fuel shortage.
You know when you tell a barber to just clean your hair up but they wind up taking off two inches immediately? That’s the trim job on this poor plant. These popcorn nugs have been decimated, although I’m not sure it matters much. Acrid smoke irritates my lungs on my first through third hits, confirming everything my eyes have already told me. Despite all of this, can Sour Kush actually make music better?
I’ll freely admit that I love succumbing to the nostalgia-plagued trappings of The Oregon Trail Generation. When the Sour Kush takes hold via an initially unfocused and lackadaisical buzz, I see a link to the Stipe interview on Facebook and immediately click. My high wanders my shoulders and temples, so digesting a few thousand words seems like a way to put it on a track. Or trail.
About two-thirds through the conversation Stipe brings up “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” and how they tanked the album — the first one I had that wasn’t checked out from the Cedar Rapids Public Library. It’s his favorite they made. I hate it. I wanted more “Shiny Happy People” as a high school freshman and couldn’t connect with the record on any level. I still listened to it endlessly.
Like that record, I’m trying to convince myself there’s something to be appreciated about the Sour Kush. I download a greatest-hits compilation and, at 10:30 p.m., decide to take to the streets. Just a man and his music, as my dog can’t be bothered to accompany me.
If I could alter an old weather platitude, I’d suggest that if you don’t like your high, go somewhere else for five minutes. Headphones on and fully immersed in the early ’90s, I at least have a clarity of purpose. Most of R.E.M.’s catalog seems tailored for listening at night, but that rings especially true as I listen to “Everybody Hurts” and watch bartenders hoist stools that are done for the day, or as I pass a gym that’s perfectly still except for the cleaning guy vacuuming window sills. It’s that marijuana moment where you’re living in a music video. About 10 minutes later, however, my high completely fades and I decide to turn back.
I smoke a bowl of Spirit of ’76 that’s thoroughly sedative, sit on my back porch, and listen to “New Adventures in Hi-Fi” straight through.
Ideally, Sour Kush is a hybrid that helps you remain incredibly functional while still having that narcotic, pain-numbing effect of a great OG. This wasn’t a bad cover or even karaoke attempt at the strain: it was Muzak. Be Bowie, be Crosby, but at least have the courage to be something.