Do you like Rock? Do you like Punk? At all? Do you like to sing along to songs? Well you will like the 'Gimme Gimmes. In fact, it's hard not to. Listening to a bunch of entertaining thirty-something Punks sing songs originally intended to be sung by Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie, Prince, Elton John
, Dusty Springfield or Boyz II Men can't help but bring a smile to your face. These guys are just plain fun, making good, fun, rockin' tunes.
Each 'Gimme Gimmes album has a set theme, relating to the songs they choose to cover. After having a crack at 70s and 80s Pop, “showtunes”, and 60s classics, the five likeable lads decided to tackle R&B. Take A Break
, Nat King Cole
and Aretha Franklin
among others. That is probably one the band's greatest strengths, the variety and breadth of the originals. Hearing Spike Slawson sing such classic hooks as “Nothing compares to you
” and “Ain't no sunshine when she's gone, and she's always gone too long
”, it's hard not to be humoured. The album is generally buoyant, frivolous Pop-Punk, mildly paced but with enough energy to maintain the feeling for the full half-hour. These boys will get your toe tapping and this is, if nothing else, a largely consistent and flowing record. There are few weak moments, of which perhaps I'll Be There
is one, even though the album does fall away towards the end rather disappointingly.
The opening track - covering Whitney Houston
's Where Do Broken Hearts Go?
- kicks -off the album and is symptomatic of the 32 minutes to come. The enthusiastic melodies are supported by the steady if uninspiring rhythm section but it's Slawson's lead-vocals that indicatively draws the attention. Like so much of the album (and all 'Gimme Gimmes for that matter) the chorus is the focal point of the song. They are generally the part which listeners will already know, and the part which will often most resemble the original version. For all intents and purposes the verses of most of the songs could well be any Fat Wreck Chords Pop-Punk band - it's only when the catchy, well-known chorus comes in that the link is made with the original. I don't profess to know all of the original versions of these songs, and many of the 'Gimme Gimmes collection stand alone (for me) with no connection to a hit of yesteryear. Not being a fan of R&B, I don't know many of the originals and those I do know I am generally only familiar with the chorus because of its mainstream popularity. This is a double-edged sword, because on the one hand you get a completely independent Punk song to listen to and assess, but then again the novelty factor which the 'Gimme Gimmes pride themselves on is all but gone. There are still many infamous sections which will be recognised by all but the most sheltered of music fans and underpinning Take A Break
is solid Pop-Punk, independent of the original.
follows a 'Gimme Gimme tradition in covering - verbatim - other Punk bands' riffs by using Pennywise's The Long Road
power-chord intro, although with the lack of lead guitar I am not sure if this is intentional. The 'Gimme Gimmes have added riffs from Punk bands - such as Bad Religion
's Stranger Than Fiction
- in to their songs over the years and this has become yet another novelty of the 'Gimme Gimmes sound. Hello
is a cover of a Lionel Richie classic and it most resembles a mixture of NOFX
, but is fundamentally rather unremarkable, in a similar vein to End Of The Road
. However Ain't No Sunshine
grabs the album by the scruff of the neck and picks up the pace with this Bill Withers
classic. The verses are almost brooding, carrying over the sentiment of the original but more so building - yet again - towards the chorus. Nothing Compares 2 U
is the first of the strong middle-section of the album. The simple yet effective chord progression and tight rhythm section gives Slawson the perfect base to mimic Prince
and yeah, he pulls it off, 'Gimme Gimmes style.
Despite the solid opening, it is tracks six, seven and eight where the album comes in to its own. Although not at his most talented, Fat Mike finally has a bass feature on Crazy
in another amusing Seal
cover. This take on the classic R&B number is the 'Gimme Gimmes at their impressionist best. “No we're never gonna survive, unless… We get a little crazy
”. This leads in to a cover of the one and only Stevie Wonder
with Isn't She Lovely
, where the band really exploit their novelty value to great effect. Taking it somewhat slower, this track blends the original, paying due respect, with the expected Punk overtures. Next up we have the 'single' from the album, R. Kelly
's I Believe I Can Fly
where the sedate feeling started in Isn't She Lovely
continues in the opening bars, before breaking in to standard 'Gimme Gimmes Punk. Possibly the catchiest song on the album, this is a true gem of a cover. This one will certainly get you singing along, and if nothing else it's a karaoke classic (not least because the video clip portrays such).
The backing vocals - of some pedigree with NOFX
's lead singer and Foo Fighters
' main back-up vocalist - feature prominently in Oh Girl
, which is otherwise a stock-standard Pop-Punk track. Mona Lisa
just takes too long to get going and is symptomatic of the closing tracks of the album. Natural Woman
is, however, a great closing to this album and again the hook is outstanding.
Although at times the sound is repetitive, the musicianship bland and obviously the originality minimal, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
are always a laugh and, for lack of a better term, good value. For what they are - an unashamedly clichéd cover band - they are exceptional. Slawson's vocals are at times monotonous and the guitar work could do with some shredding solos and lead riffs, while Fat Mike really doesn't show any of his undeniable talent on bass for the majority of the album. Despite their flaws, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
are an amusing band who are nothing but fun to listen to. The highlights of this album far outweigh the dull tracks and make this is enjoyable album, whatever your music inclinations.