Let's face it - Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are a one-trick pony. The band has built a career around doing punk rock cover tunes of songs that you never anticipated a punk cover of. That being said, it's always interesting to see what they'll take on next.
The band, consisting of a bunch of guys well known for their work elsewhere - Spike Slawson (Swingin' Utters) on vocals, Chris Shiflett AKA Jake Jackson (No Use For A Name) and Joey Cape (Lagwagon) on guitars, Fat Mike (NOFX) on bass and Dave Raun (Lagwagon) on drums - last set their sights on Australian pop tunes earlier this year with Go Down Under, and have now decided to move slightly north to take on six tunes by Japanese bands on their latest ep Sing In Japanese.
It's an interesting gamble; the appeal of a cover tune is generally that you will know the words and be able to sing along and have fun with the new, often outrageous take on the song, especially in the case of the Gimme Gimmes. But I find that, even not knowing the tunes, or even understanding the words, I'm having a lot of fun with the stab the band takes at each track, singing the songs in what I can only assume is pretty accurate Japanese.
The album opens with "Hero," and it's an immediately infectious and uplifting pop punk take. Again, I have no idea what it's about, but the energy has me bopping along. It flows evenly into "Kokoro No Tabi," an odd little tune that the band injects with a singalong chorus that gives it the feeling of a classic pub tune - albeit one in Japanese.
"C-C-C" is also a song that gets a twisted take, combining punchy punk aggressive guitars with bubble gum pop choruses. It's schizophrenic in a wonderfully fun way.
The band gives nods to western punk rock as well, providing a hook that draws those unfamiliar to the music in as well. "Kekkon Shiyoyo" lifts it's riffs from Social Distortion's classic "Stroy of My Life," and the whole thing is injected with a rockabilly twang that I'm guessing is absent from the original.
"22 Sai No Wakare" is a trademark Me First and the Gimme Gimmes song, embodying the classic Fat Wreck Chords sound of crunchy guitars and buzzsaw riffs with an energetic and passionate feeling. Again, I don't what Spike is saying, but he sounds like he means it.
Sing In Japanese closes with the only song I know, their cover of the punk classic "Linda Linda" by the Blue Hearts (also covered by MXPX on On The Cover II. But, like their punk injection into songs that aren't traditional punk tunes, the band takes it in another direction, first warping into in a reggae tune complete with a horn section, slipping in a punk chorus here and there, and throwing in some liberal country twang for good measure.
So, by the close of Sing In Japanese , it's readily apparent that Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are still a one-trick pony, and their formula is readily apparent. The thing is, it's a really good trick, and they don't have any reason to learn any new ones. They're the punk rock version of Evel Knievel - you know what they're going to do every time they show up, but you want to see and hear anyway because it's that good. But unlike Evel Knievel, their trick is slightly less likely to put them in traction.
Released September 13, 2011
"Hero" - Originally by Kai Band (1978).
"Kokoro No Tabi" - Originally by Tulip (1973)
"Kekkon Shiyoyo" - Originally by Yoshida Takuro (1972)
"C-C-C" - Originally by The Tigers (1968)
"22 Sai No Wakare" - Originally by Kaze (1975)
"Linda Linda" - Originally by the Blue Hearts (1987)