Review Summary: "Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah" is a live effort in which Me First and the Gimme Gimmes rock with their kippahs out. Their unprofessional approach to the album only enhances its appeal.
Donning matching attire, the punk rock cover outfit Me First and the Gimme Gimmes butchers or exalts your favorite classic hits, based on your perspective. During Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah
, the Gimmes invade Jewish territory and provide a punk rock twist to the celebration, marking the transition of a young boy into adulthood, as well as the Gimmes’ transition from a studio to live album. This collection of punk veterans features members of Lagwagon, NOFX, Swingin’ Utters, and formerly No Use for a Name; guitarist Joey Cape, drummer Dave Raun, bassist Fat Mike, lead vocalist Spike Slawson, and guitarist Chris Shiflett round out the talent of Me First and relay good humor between each other throughout their performance. On Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah
, these superheroes of punk rock favor fun over finesse, clowning over class, but a sloppy record full of genuine happiness only makes the Gimmes that much more enjoyable.
Solid musicianship is abundant in the Gimmes’ lineup but on more than one occasion do the Gimmes depart from a refined sound. Though this is the charm of many live records, cover bands should be held to a slightly higher standard. Notes are missed frequently, songs are restarted, and songs end prematurely. Songs like “Stairway to Heaven” are maladjusted, removing from the essence of the originals but allowing the Gimmes to do nothing more than entertain.
So who are they covering this time around? Is there a theme to the album as on other Gimmes albums, such as Love Their Country
, Are a Drag
, or Blow in the Wind
? Not really, but there is not an unfamiliar song on the album as the Gimmes chose hits across genres to ensure that no one was left out of the loop. With the benefit of accessible tunes, the Gimmes shine brightest on “Come Sail Away,” “The Longest Time,” and “Superstar.” As covers, these songs keep the intrinsic values of their original counterparts and provide an additional musical element that makes each song equally or even more enjoyable than the original. With solid covers, the Gimmes are able to stylishly attract listeners without losing any respect, holding the originals up to their classic standing.
The Gimmes are also known to begin songs with familiar punk rock hits, or to mask songs with the structure of others. On Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah
, a listener will notice that “Hava Nagila” warps for a moment into The Offspring’s “Come Out and Play” and that “The Longest Time” recollects Stiff Little Fingers’ “Suspect Device.” The most noticeable introduction is on “Superstar,” made famous by The Carpenters, with the notorious bassline featured on the Adolescents’ legendary “Kids of the Black Hole.” These touches of punk rock go further than paying tribute to the bands and add a clever uniqueness to the material. Well, the entire album is clever uniqueness.
Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah
adds such a unique element to the album that you feel like you’re at the party, wearing your finest shoes, and ordering your fifth drink from the bar. Or was it sixth? The point is that there is a very intimate environment created by that same sloppy approach mentioned earlier. Each track is either casually enjoyable or awful to the point of pure amusement. At one point in the record, Jonny comes out and plays drums for the Gimmes’ rendition of Sloop John B, making for a fitting end to this album filled with sentimental and playful moments. And if you purchase the album itself, you can enjoy the party visually thanks to the bonus material and share a few more drinks at the bar after hours.