Me First and The Gimme Gimmes – [EP]

Thursday, 08 September 2011

Someone, somewhere has to be wondering how this EP didn't get made sooner. For the last sixteen years, Me First and The Gimme Gimmes have been raiding/defacing the vaults of pop history and churning out their own versions of what they find in the spirit of punk rock karaoke – so it's surprising to think that no one considered taking a crack at some bands from Japan; the birthplace of karaoke. It must have finally dawned on someone in the band that they had missed this obvious novelty, and now the world has Sing In Japanese.

As one might expect, Sing In Japanese is both a little different and more complicated than anything the Gimme Gimmes have attempted before, if only because the EP lives up to its name. The band hasn't chosen to try and anglicize or translate the six songs here – singer Spike Slawson actually took the time to learn lyrics in another language (theoretically anyway – it sounds like Japanese) in as close to a faithful tone as possible. It might sound a little hard to believe, and skeptics will be dumbfounded as, from the beginning of the opening track, “Hero” (originally done by Kai Band), Slawson gives a fluid, at least passably faithful rendition of a song written and recorded in a foreign language without seeming to stumble. The singer's performance continues to shock as he pulls takes  of “Koroko No Tabi,” “Kennon Shiyoyo” (which sounds a little like “Story Of My Life” by Social Distortion, to be honest), “C-C-C” and “22 Sai No Wakare” off with surprising authority; even on ground this shaky, the singer makes it work and the band, for its part, provides a solid, “same as always” backing which allows listeners to believe the band is doing a good job – even if they don't really know for sure.

That's the thing though – Me First and The Gimme Gimmes' performance on Sing In Japanese is tempered by the fact that most English-speaking fans wouldn't know whether these covers are good or well-done and that makes it a little more complicated. Half the fun of any Gimme Gimmes release is listening to hear the band rethink bar/jukebox/pop standards, but that isn't really possible here because it's likely that a lot of the band's fans have no frame of reference for Sing In Japanese. Because of that, a leap of faith is required; either a listener can choose to take what the band is pushing at face value and enjoy it, or he/she can research the songs and find out how good the covers here are. Either way though – whether as a goofy novelty or as a learning experience – listeners are guaranteed to get something out of this EP.



Sing In Japanese
comes out on September 13, 2011 via Fat Wreck Chords. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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