Are we not men? We are diva!
Six years after their last full length release (Have another ball) Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are back with a new album. One might argue that “Have another ball” is a compilation album rather than a full length release. If we take that into consideration it has been 8 years since their last album (Love their country). It’s not that they haven’t done anything in the meantime. In 2011 they released two EP’s. One with hits from Australian artists and one with Japanese hits. The latter one was completely in Japanese.
Before I go into their latest release, let me first inform some of you of what Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, or Me First or the Gimmes as fans also call them, actually is.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a so-called supergroup. They differ from most other supergroups however. Me First solely plays cover songs. The band was formed in 1995 and most of it members earned their stripes in other bands. Bassist Fat Mike formed NOFX and runs the label Fat Wreck Chords. Joey Cape and Dave Raun are both from Lagwagon and Chris Shiflett started out in No Use For A Name and now is the lead guitarist of the Foo Fighters. Due to this he cannot always join them on the road and among others is replaced by his brother Scott.
Spike Slawson earned his stripes in the mail order department of Fat Wreck Chords and later on went on to play for the Swingin’ Utters.
Since 1997 the Gimmes have released 7 studio albums (including this one) and one live album.
All albums have a theme.Ranging from 60’s and 70’s hits to show tunes to country songs. On “Are we not men? We are Diva!” they cover songs originally performed by Divas ranging from Gloria Gaynor to Celine Dion to Barbra Streisand to the late Whitney Houston but also include Lady Gaga and Boy George’s Culture club. The last one most likely being included because of his feminine appearance during the 80’s
From the first to last note this is a true Me First album. You’ll recognize majority of the songs and on most of them you can sing along almost right away. The Gimmes however throw in a few surprises in this one. It’s not all straight forward pop-punk covers of the songs we all know..
On “My heart will go on” they use a more folk-punk acoustic arrangement with even an accordion in it turning an overrated song from an overrated movie (Spoiler alert: the boat sinks) by an overrated artist into a classic on its own.
On Madonna’s “Crazy for you” they actually stick close to the original. Spike can show off his ukulele skills. The entire song you expect them to put the ukulele aside and break into their normal routine of pop-punk. This song could get airplay on almost every radio station and could go far in the charts. Especially if you take into consideration that Belgium rockband Triggerfinger scored a huge hit with the massively overrated song “I follow rivers” (it makes “My heart will go on” look like a half decent song).
Dolly Parton’s “I will always love you”, made famous by Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard, will take a moment before you recognize it. This version is a lot faster than the original. It took me until the chorus to figure out which song it was as I wasn’t looking at the playlist at the time. But once I heard it it was an “Oh yeah!!” moment. Just as with “Top of the world”. The title didn’t ring a bell for me but then the chorus kicked in and I recognized it.
Listening to the chorus of “I will always love you” however makes you wonder how Spike will pull it off live. He doesn’t go as high as Whitney Houston did but it’s still pretty high and he already seems to struggle in the studio. But this is Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. If you expect a flawless live show this is not your band. This band is about fun and having a good time. They either “fight” who made the mistake or claim we, the audience, received extra notes in the song. They sometimes high five each other when they actually play a song practically flawless.
So, if Spike cannot pull it off on stage it’s kinda part of the show. Honestly I cannot wait for the reactions of his bandmates when he does fail. It’s going to be hilarious.
So is this their best release ever? Probably not. It’s not their worst either. Their albums pretty much scores the same. None really stand out and none really fail to deliver. Non-Japanese speaking fans might put “Sing in Japanese” on the bottom of their personal lists but only because they (including myself) cannot understand a word they’re singing. But that doesn’t make it a bad release. It’s still the sound of Me First that you expect only with words you don’t understand.
Me First isn’t a band that does release legendary albums like “Energy” by Operation Ivy or “London Calling” by The Clash or “Nevermind the Bollocks here are the Sex Pistols” by the Sex Pistols. No, the Gimmes are a band that you should see live at least once in your lifetime. And that’s why this release is as important as their previous releases. It means they’re still around and going back on the road. With the band almost being 20 years old and some of it’s members closing in on their 50th birthday it’s something to cherish as it might be their last album and/or tour. But obviously we hope they keep on rocking for at leat another 20 years
So do yourself a favor and buy a ticket to their show if you get the chance. After all, bands like this make most of their money on the road and not from releasing albums so pick up a shirt while you’re there as well.