When I first saw this record listed as "A Punk Elvis Tribute" and coupled that with the knowledge that the band was composed of members of other bands (NOFX, Aggression, Ill Repute and the Bad Samaritans) who played under Elvis-related stage names, I immediately dreaded hearing this CD. I expected that, at best, if would be a humorous, if overdone gimmick, worth busting out on the occasional unsuspecting friend, but not warranting any repeated play.
I wish I could say my suspicions were right.
Because this record shouldn't be this good.
Somehow, though, it's really good
The idea of an Elvis tribute record is as old as the idea that Elvis still lives, and almost as tired. For years, bands have offered up their "own take" on Elvis tunes and grabbed some quick cash on Elvis covers or entire Elvis tribute albums, and found their own gimmick that lasted a short while at least (Dread Zeppelin, anyone?), and for the most part, these songs and bands disappeared quickly like they were peanut butter and banana sandwiches in the hands of the King himself. A few covers became mainstays, but for the most part they were that - cover songs.
When a band like G.G. Elvis and the TCP Band comes along, though, they should, by all indications, simply crank out some tired, sped-up punk versions of the songs, make a little money and move on. Who'da thunk the guys would actually approach the project with the proper amount of creativity and innovation?
That's what they did. Even though I don't think it mattered either way to them.
Yes, at it's core, it's a punk rock tribute album to Elvis, but as a whole the band has genuinely reinterpreted the songs into instant punk rock classics, played in a way that makes you feel like you're hearing a great new tune that you somehow already know the words too.
The band delves deeper into the gimmick when it works, like when the opening track, "That's All Right Mama" (Listen/Download), is merged with parts of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" or "Suspicious Minds" (Listen/Download) mashes with the Sex Pistols' "Holiday's In The Sun." But even then, it's not too overblown or played-out; the band swipes the riffs just long enough for you to smile and get what they're getting at before rolling on into more dirty punk rock.
Over and over, G.G. Elvis turns classic Elvis tunes into southern-fried gritty punkabilly music. "Blue Suede Shoes" is fast and sweaty (Listen/Download), "Viva Las Vegas" feels even sleazier than when the Dead Kennedys took it on (Listen/Download), and "Little Sister" slides even further down the slide of dirtiness, attaining a creepiness the original implied, but never quite had (Listen/Download).
The record wraps up with a cover of "My Way," again riding the joke train just as far as possible without becoming so self-deprecating that the fist in the air you raise for the singalong becomes ironic (Listen/Download). This is a band that plays it tongue in cheek, but will never go so far as to stick those tongues out at fans who want to simply rock out.
The photos in the packaging (along with a rather indecent scratch and sniff sticker) and the inclusion of a DVD G.G. Elvis mockumentary are a nice bonus, but they do detract from the project, making the joke all the more apparent. It hammers home the full paradox of this record. It is a joke; it is a gimmick. Yet it's one that's been done so well that the joke has unintentionally gained some legitimacy and achieved the ability to simply be a decent record as well.
Secret Identities Revealed - The Lineup
G.G. Elvis (Eric Lara of the Bad Samaritans) - vocals
Elvis of Nazareth (Tony Cortez of Ill Repute) - guitar,
Elvis Vicious (Dave Casillas of NOFX) - guitar
Elvis '56 (George Snow of Bad Samaritans) - bass
Little Sister (Sara Jo Merin ) - backing vocals
"Has-Been" Elvis (Larry White of Aggression) - drums
Release Date: June 24, 2008