Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Take a Break

How do you get young punk rockers to listen to acts like Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Sinead O’Connor, Boyz II Men, Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly, Seal, the Jackson Five, and Vanessa Williams? That’s easy. You just get a few of the kids’ favorite punk-rock stars to join forces and dish out nothing but cover versions of that material. With that theory in mind, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is bridging generation gaps and offering a second chance to former hit songs that you probably forgot about many moons ago.
As many of you already know, the band includes members of NOFX, Lagwagon, Swingin Utters, No Use for a Name, and Foo Fighters. With every album, the group selects a different style of cover songs and then goes about punking them up. What you might not know is that for this, the band’s fourth album, the guys decided to take the rhythm and blues route. The band breathes new life into every song, which is done largely by speeding them up and boosting the energy by at least a hundred times. The results are pretty much what you would expect, which is pop-punk songs like those you are familiar with (think NOFX, Lagwagon, No Use for a Name, etc.) but with lyrics and melodies that you can either already sing along to or at least recognize as vaguely familiar. These new versions are also spiced up a bit from time to time by some entertaining alternate lyrics, between-song banter, screams, and guitar squeals tossed in where they never existed before, or even a bit of a barbershop quartet vibe. Other than that, the speedy drums, buzz-saw guitar work, and growling yet melodic vocals don’t go trying to break any new ground as far as the poppy punk world is concerned.
Like the band’s previous work, this one just kind of buzzes along in a mindless sort of fashion. Perfect party music? Yes. Mentally stimulating art? Not quite. Highlights this time around include a take on Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” that makes you want to go back and listen to the original version just for giggles. An amped-up reworking of the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There” is another standout, as is a version of Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” that will leave you scratching your head and wondering how you hated the song so much the first time around. A far-less-than-serious rendition of Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” can’t help but put a grin on your face, making you feel like an ass for dancing to the same song as school dances a few years back. Closing the album out in appropriately hilarious fashion is a new version of “Natural Woman” that will have punkers of both genders chanting along.
Punk-rock cover songs are a tough call. You’ve got compilations full of them, it seems like every new pop-punk band has to have one on its debut release, and here we have a band that plays nothing but them. It’s gotten to the point where, for some people, such songs can be an easy source of mockery and dismissal because they have become somewhat commonplace or even overdone. On the other hand, for some people, a collection such as this is pure mindless fun, and as long as you don’t try to take it too seriously, it’s pretty damn entertaining. Is it possible for a novelty band to display true talent? Apparently so.