Me First and The Gimme Gimmes – [EP]

Tuesday, 01 February 2011

With a sixteen-year history of basically releasing the same thing each time they record a new album (punk rock covers of pop songs – d'uh!), it's a pretty safe assumption that everyone in the world knows what to expect of Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. Everyone knows that, whatever might come out next from everyone's favorite cover band, it's going to be fun, it's going to be funny and it's going to be effective; those who like the Gimme Gimmes' sound love the song choices and the rough way they're treated. After sixteen years, fans know singer Spike Slawson is going to only sort-of sing through the verses, shout the choruses and bark “Yeah!” repeatedly as every song melts down at its' end. They know that Joey Cape is going to translate every horn and keyboard line for guitar, and know the rhythm section manned by Fat Mike and Dave is going to help push the tempos of each song into hyper-speed too – that's just how it works. When the chance to have even more fun by changing up the design makes itself apparent though, that is when things threaten to get interesting; and that's exactly what happens on Go Down Under.

On Go Down Under, the material that The Gimme Gimmes examine is that which comes from Australia. Of course, in North America, the running joke about Australia is that everything in the country is backwards; right down to the direction in which the water spirals in the toilet bowl when it's flushed. Such is sort of the idea that the band has run with for this EP; here, Spike sings pretty (in a Greg Jacobs sort of way) and the stray sparks of chaos that have always characterized the instrumental side of the Gimme Gimmes have all been tightly reigned in for these five songs. Such redesigning will instantly make the band's more dogged fanbase (Spike can sing? No way! Who knew?) but, amazingly, the tweaking doesn't prove to be a bitter pill to take; in fact, it becomes another level of comedy for listeners to revel in.

After the shock of hearing Slawson's slick and rather elastic vocal delivery subsides (it will take until about the second verse for most listeners), it's at that point that listeners will realize Me First and The Gimme Gimmes are capable of being more than just a one-gimmick wonder as they just keep broadening their horizons, creatively. Before the band kicks into the thoroughly slick, smooth and Velveeta fare of “All Out Of Love,” for example, the band warms up with a bit of Black Flag's “Rise Above” which will get a whole different kind of cheer from the pit – but then they fall easily right back into the cheese. Slawson has a positively heroic vocal moment in “Have You Ever Been Mellow” where he proves he does indeed have some vocal range and melodic ability too – which comes off as pretty incredible when you remember that he has never really hinted at either possibility before. Further, guitarists Joey Cape and Jake Jackson manage to turn Rick Springfield's “I've Done Everything For You” into a genuine article, totally un-ironic, balls-out rocker to close out the EP and end on on incredible high note; not that anyone expected to be let down by the Gimme Gimmes, just that no one could possibly have expected five really (really) bad songs to sound so good, and not really draw so much laughter as surprise and respect.

Such epiphanies as those caused by the Go Down Under EP call into question whether this release could mark a turning point for Me First and The Gimme Gimmes. Will future releases continue in this far more straight-faced and musician-ly vein, or was it all just another prank to play so well because these songs originated in a “backwards place?” Only future releases will tell but, even if Go Down Under turns out to be a one-off goof, it proves that the only reason Me First and The Gimme Gimmes goof off the way they usually do is because it's fun – not because they don't have the chops to do anything else.



The Go Down Under EP is out now. Buy it here on Amazon or directly from Fat Wreck Chords here .

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